Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Earth?

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Vaniver » Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:27 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:With regards to the morality of population control, does the survival of the human race justify the mass slaughter of said race's populace. Yes. On the basis of total harm done, less harm would be caused by the slaughter than would be inflicted by by the lack of a slaughter.
How big are your error bars?

And, do you acknowledge that every person who has argued this position for the last two hundred years have been wrong? How confident do you think they were in their error bars?
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Tue Apr 13, 2010 1:44 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:How big are your error bars?

And, do you acknowledge that every person who has argued this position for the last two hundred years have been wrong? How confident do you think they were in their error bars?


Do you mean my margin for error when calculating 'harm' or 'suffering'. Such calculations are always going to seem harsh as the values you deal with are subjective - is living a satisfying life for 20 years better than an unsatisfying life lived for 100 years...

As for ever person arguing that position being 'wrong' I don't acknowledge that, you may think they were wrong but as I said the values are subjective... The most obvious example of the 'greater good' rationale for inflicting harm that I can think of is Hiroshima/Nagasaki, I think the bombings were morally justifiable.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

Issedil
Posts: 37
Joined: Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:53 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Issedil » Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:21 pm UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:
Vaniver wrote:How big are your error bars?

And, do you acknowledge that every person who has argued this position for the last two hundred years have been wrong? How confident do you think they were in their error bars?


Do you mean my margin for error when calculating 'harm' or 'suffering'. Such calculations are always going to seem harsh as the values you deal with are subjective - is living a satisfying life for 20 years better than an unsatisfying life lived for 100 years...

As for ever person arguing that position being 'wrong' I don't acknowledge that, you may think they were wrong but as I said the values are subjective... The most obvious example of the 'greater good' rationale for inflicting harm that I can think of is Hiroshima/Nagasaki, I think the bombings were morally justifiable.

The problem with 'greater good' rationale is that it will almost always violate the rights of others. AND it will be imposible to measure since there is no way to determine what what will be better for the population that is targeted. You can not possibly know what they prefere before, and how they think of the situation afterwards if they survived.
So you have a model that is imposible to measure, and that is IF you think that it is moraly acceptable to kill of people as a means to an end. Something which more or less only Utilitarism thinks is ok, all other major moral philosophys claims that is it wrong to do something like that.
In my opinion that makes imposible to implement, but also moraly dubious - at best.

djfatsostupid
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:07 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby djfatsostupid » Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:53 pm UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" - Shakespeare.

When you say something is 'bad', all you are saying is that you subjectively interpret that action as 'bad' for whatever reason. It doesn't mean it is objectively or inherently bad and that all people will always value it as bad for all time. Personally, I would rather kill a finite amount of people now so that a countless number of people can live with ample resources in the future as opposed to billions and billions of people being born in to squalor and starvation causing an unfathomable amount of pain.


There are things that are bad. High child mortality rates are bad, mass extinction is bad, genocide is bad, having gallstones is bad, getting a paper cut is bad. You can try to employ various arguments to say that these things are not bad, but they are all facetious.

Good and bad are entirely subjective. So are the definitions of all words. Truth and meaning are entirely subjective, but we walk around talking about them like they mean something anyway (which they do). Go ahead and tell me that killing people isn't bad with a straight face. Don't construct a hypothetical situation where killing people is justified or make up a perfect-knowledge fiction where you know for certain it will save humanity, just say it isn't bad to kill people if that's what you really think. If that isn't what you really think then my point stands.

Constructing the hypothetical situation only proves that you think killing people is bad. You need to lay out a greater good to balance out the badness of killing people. Do you shoot the PCP-crazed blood-encrusted-axe wielding psycho headed for the maternity ward? Okay, fine. Do you kill a billion people because you are pretty sure that it will be better in the long run? Only if you really want to get the trophy for most evil person ever to live.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Sat Apr 17, 2010 9:25 am UTC

djfatsostupid wrote:High child mortality rates are bad


Not to someone or something who doesn't like children.

mass extinction is bad


What about the mass extinction of dangerous bacteria - would you consider that bad?

Invading aliens probably wouldn't think mass extinction of humans to be a bad thing.

genocide is bad


Tell that to Hitler...

Good and bad are entirely subjective. So are the definitions of all words. Truth and meaning are entirely subjective, but we walk around talking about them like they mean something anyway (which they do). Go ahead and tell me that killing people isn't bad with a straight face. Don't construct a hypothetical situation where killing people is justified or make up a perfect-knowledge fiction where you know for certain it will save humanity, just say it isn't bad to kill people if that's what you really think. If that isn't what you really think then my point stands.


Truth isn't subjective, something is true when it corresponds with the objective world - whether or not we can attain this is another question but the definition of truth itself is objective. I do not have to personally believe that killing people is not bad, jack the ripper, Hitler, Stalin, Charles Manson, Pol Pot et al clearly did not believe that killing people was bad. It is entirely possible for someone to not think killing people is bad - show me where in your magic objective moral code that it says killing a human being is and always will be an objectively bad thing to do. My personal beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with this argument.

Do you kill a billion people because you are pretty sure that it will be better in the long run? Only if you really want to get the trophy for most evil person ever to live


Really? Just curiously, do you believe Harry Truman to be one of the most evil people to ever live? Going even further, do you believe every single military leader in history to be entirely evil whether they were fighting for your freedom or not?
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Vaniver » Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:55 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:As for ever person arguing that position being 'wrong' I don't acknowledge that, you may think they were wrong but as I said the values are subjective... The most obvious example of the 'greater good' rationale for inflicting harm that I can think of is Hiroshima/Nagasaki, I think the bombings were morally justifiable.
I don't mean morally deficient, I mean factually incorrect. The belief that "humans are growing too fast, we need to limit the population or face imminent collapse" has literally been seriously and 'scientifically' espoused for two centuries. You can't just argue "I think collapse is on the horizon" to be taken seriously- you have to argue "I have a new and convincing reason to believe collapse is on the horizon," understanding what the old reasons were.
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

User avatar
SummerGlauFan
Posts: 1746
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:27 pm UTC
Location: KS

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SummerGlauFan » Thu Apr 22, 2010 2:24 am UTC

Avoiding the moral arguments for now, there is a practical reason for not engaging in a genocide for any particular reason. By determining you need to kill off x number of people, you are going to have to chose who those people are. Humans being humans, they will object to this. Violently. If you want to kill off a large percentage of the earth, that percentage is going to reject almost unanimously, with probably a fair amount of support from people otherwise not scheduled to die. Your plan probably then fails, and then rather than the problem you were trying to prevent being seriously considered, it is now forever tainted with the memory of the lunatic who tried to kill billions of people for his ideal.

In other words, it will most likely backfire, and wind up with your cause being associated with crazy murderers. To use a (much smaller in scale, and generally non-murderous) real world equivalent, the Hippy movement tainted public perception of environmental causes even to the modern day, because of all the baggage hippies brought with them when they got involved with environmentalism. Even though, especially today, many environmentalists are nothing like hippies, it doesn't matter because the stereotype has already been made.
glasnt wrote:"As she raised her rifle against the creature, her hair fluttered beneath the red florescent lighting of the locked down building.

I knew from that moment that she was something special"


Outbreak, a tale of love and zombies.

In stores now.

djfatsostupid
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:07 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby djfatsostupid » Fri Apr 23, 2010 9:26 pm UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:Truth isn't subjective, something is true when it corresponds with the objective world - whether or not we can attain this is another question but the definition of truth itself is objective. I do not have to personally believe that killing people is not bad, jack the ripper, Hitler, Stalin, Charles Manson, Pol Pot et al clearly did not believe that killing people was bad. It is entirely possible for someone to not think killing people is bad - show me where in your magic objective moral code that it says killing a human being is and always will be an objectively bad thing to do. My personal beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with this argument.


So morality isn't objective unless I have a magic moral wand, but truth gets to be objective despite the admitted lack of existence of a magic truth wand? Where is the objective standard of objectivity that is being used here?

This is exactly what I am talking about when I say that truth is just as subjective as morality. These days we largely rely on the scientific method and statistics to get at truth, but both of those things were invented in the last few centuries. Without either the ancient Greeks managed to do an awful lot of architecture. Their buildings didn't fall down, so they knew something, but by modern standards of knowledge they knew practically nothing. In fact, almost everything they regarded as true was objectively false - and spectacularly so - but they got a lot done with it.

If you are a dualist then the idea that there objectively exists morality should be pretty easy to understand, so I'll assume you aren't. If you are a materialist and you want to explain the idea of truth without needing a magic wand then, assuming you think that thoughts and ideas are *something* and not nothing, you must think that they are made of stuff. That stuff is the same stuff that comprises the objective morality (this is what being a materialist means, if you don't think this then why isn't morality the same kind of stuff as thoughts are?). What we call the "truth" of something (again, unless we are just talking nonsense) would have to be an object composed of matter/energy, having a volume and mass (I'm not going to make any suggestions about what that object would be like, it wouldn't necessarily have to be contiguous, it could be very big or very small, inside a brain or made of stuff outside of brains as well) that would have to be constructed by the things that call it the truth - those things being in this case humans (again, using the idea of "constructed" pretty liberally here). When you say that the truth would have to "correspond" to the objective world, we are talking (again, if about anything) about a physical relationship between two objects.

There may be different kinds of relationships that objects can have with one another. For example, some things are bigger than one another (have a large diameter, say) and we tend to think that these things would be bigger than one another whether we were there to notice it or not. Furthermore, we tend to think that things being bigger or smaller is an actual relationship between the things themselves (there are different ways of measuring it, but whatever system you used to observe the universe you would notice something like momentum, which corresponds to a kind of bigness). One thing can also be tastier than another. We recognize that this is a relationship that we have constructed, it is an idea. So the question is, do you think that the relationship between ideas that are true and the things they are true about is like electrical charge, size, mass, etc. That is, do you think that in a pre-big-bang state of infinite heat, infinite density and maximal entropy (or even in a quantum-of-time-post-big-bang state) that the physical factors which define a relationship between two things that makes one of them a true idea about the other existed?

If so, that sounds an awful lot like magic to me. But whether I think this is reasonable or not, the idea that such a property of matter/energy exists is not less ludicrous than the supposition that a property of matter/energy defining morality exists, especially if you consider the possibility that our current understanding or morality bears no more resemblance to the underlying fact we are trying to describe than phlogiston bore a resemblance to heat.

If not then the relationship between two things that makes one a true idea of the other is itself a construction, what's more, it is a construction that has demonstrably changed in recorded history (as I have noted above). I think that it is safe to say that (People made it) + (It changes) + (It is what we would call an idea rather than what we would call an object) => It is subjective (that last clause is there because we don't call cars or pens subjective, they just aren't the right kind of thing).

The idea that we know morality is subjective because some people were very immoral is just assuming the conclusion. People think a lot of false things are true, but this doesn't make them true, nor does it make truth subjective (truth is subjective, but this is definitely not why). People think a lot of bad things are perfectly fine, but that doesn't necessarily do anything about the fact that they are bad things. I suppose you will tell me that strength is subjective because some people can't lift very much?

To be clear, I'm not being facetious here: I think that on the balance of probabilities (I'm not certain or committed to the idea, but it seems more reasonable to me than the alternative) that all these ages that people have talked about being good and bad we have been talking about *something*. While I can't rule out the possibility that truth is objective and morality is subjective when you get right down to the base facts of existence, (which would sort of necessitate the fact that objectivity and subjectivity were themselves both objective, that is, all this time we have grasped at those ideas we have been trying to understand an underlying property of matter/energy that divides objective matter/energy from subjective matter/energy just as electrical charge divides positively and negatively charges elementary particles) this seems to be about the least plausible of the alternatives.

Do you kill a billion people because you are pretty sure that it will be better in the long run? Only if you really want to get the trophy for most evil person ever to live


Really? Just curiously, do you believe Harry Truman to be one of the most evil people to ever live? Going even further, do you believe every single military leader in history to be entirely evil whether they were fighting for your freedom or not?


First of all, wars are desperately terrible things. That doesn't mean that everyone who participates in them on either side is necessarily evil. We have some idea of the standards that we need to apply to determine whether killing someone is really justified in a situation. In our laws we give someone a pass on killing another person if the killer very reasonably believed that the victim posed an immediate risk to someone else's life and if there was no reasonable option available to stop that aside from killing the person. I would say that killing the person is still bad. As I said, saying that sometimes there is a justification for doing something is not the same as saying that the thing isn't bad.

Killing a billion or more people who do not pose an *immediate* risk to anyone else when almost any reasonable person would be able to think of alternatives to accomplish your goal that fall well short of killing the people is stupendously evil. Killing people out of conceit that you *know* about the bad things that will happen if you don't when those things don't fall into the reasonable and well accepted norm of how to tell when someone is going to cause the death of other people is ridiculously evil.

Let's look at the question we have been asked to answer: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Earth?

I stand by the fact that "Killing people is bad" is a sufficient answer to that question; sufficient, at least, to point out that the burden of proof is left sorely in the wrong camp. If you want to justify killing off a large percentage of the Earth's population, then you have to make a damn convincing argument for it (and it's probably pretty safe to say that you shouldn't do it no matter how convincing you think the argument is).

User avatar
bmonk
Posts: 662
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:14 pm UTC
Location: Schitzoed in the OTT between the 2100s and the late 900s. Hoping for singularity.

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby bmonk » Fri Apr 23, 2010 9:55 pm UTC

SummerGlauFan wrote:Avoiding the moral arguments for now, there is a practical reason for not engaging in a genocide for any particular reason. By determining you need to kill off x number of people, you are going to have to chose who those people are. Humans being humans, they will object to this. Violently. If you want to kill off a large percentage of the earth, that percentage is going to reject almost unanimously, with probably a fair amount of support from people otherwise not scheduled to die. Your plan probably then fails, and then rather than the problem you were trying to prevent being seriously considered, it is now forever tainted with the memory of the lunatic who tried to kill billions of people for his ideal.

In other words, it will most likely backfire, and wind up with your cause being associated with crazy murderers. To use a (much smaller in scale, and generally non-murderous) real world equivalent, the Hippy movement tainted public perception of environmental causes even to the modern day, because of all the baggage hippies brought with them when they got involved with environmentalism. Even though, especially today, many environmentalists are nothing like hippies, it doesn't matter because the stereotype has already been made.

I agree, and would add another argument: Do I (we) really want to become the sort of people who are willing to make this choice, and carry out the violence to impose it? I, at least, am more willing to die rather than to kill another person.
Having become a Wizard on n.p. 2183, the Yellow Piggy retroactively appointed his honorable self a Temporal Wizardly Piggy on n.p.1488, not to be effective until n.p. 2183, thereby avoiding a partial temporal paradox. Since he couldn't afford two philosophical PhDs to rule on the title.

Hedonic Treader
Posts: 187
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Hedonic Treader » Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:20 am UTC

Here's a suggestion. How about we globally

- ban all cars
- ban all non-crucial air traffic
- ban all factory farming
- ban your X-Box

...before even thinking about killing people for sustainability reasons?

Judicator
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:49 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Judicator » Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:04 pm UTC

Isn't geoengineering a far better option? I mean if you're really thinking we'll go extinct, so we should reduce the earth's poupulation by 90%, that's a huge loss to wold GDP, something like $50+ trillion each year forever, plus GDP growth. Surely we could reverse the human extinction effects of global warming for less than $50 trillion?

Also do you have more detailed scenarios about what would happen? Let's say tomorrow everything in the ocean dies (acidification, whatever) except algae and other small multicellular life - what happens to terrestrial life?

Hedonic Treader
Posts: 187
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Hedonic Treader » Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:59 pm UTC

Judicator wrote:Isn't geoengineering a far better option? I mean if you're really thinking we'll go extinct, so we should reduce the earth's poupulation by 90%, that's a huge loss to wold GDP, something like $50+ trillion each year forever, plus GDP growth. Surely we could reverse the human extinction effects of global warming for less than $50 trillion?

Also do you have more detailed scenarios about what would happen? Let's say tomorrow everything in the ocean dies (acidification, whatever) except algae and other small multicellular life - what happens to terrestrial life?

It's not just about climate change. Even if the sceptics were right and global warning were a non-issue, we'd still have sustainability problems. I just read a book called "The Vegetarian Myth" by Lierre Keith, who makes the point that agriculture itself is like waging war against the soil - she argues against the idea that vegetarianism or veganism alone can provide a solution to sustainabilty in food production. Her basic problem statement is about inevitable topsoil loss through the production of annual monocrops, and about the dependency of agriculture on fertilizers and energy based on fossil fuels.

We're basically living on non-renewable fuels, water supplies, topsoil, and some mineral raw matrerials, all of which are supposedly not replenished or recycled fast enough to sustain the status quo, let alone industrial welfare for additional billions of people.

Judicator
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:49 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Judicator » Sun Apr 25, 2010 3:57 pm UTC

Hedonic Treader wrote:
Judicator wrote:Isn't geoengineering a far better option? I mean if you're really thinking we'll go extinct, so we should reduce the earth's poupulation by 90%, that's a huge loss to wold GDP, something like $50+ trillion each year forever, plus GDP growth. Surely we could reverse the human extinction effects of global warming for less than $50 trillion?

Also do you have more detailed scenarios about what would happen? Let's say tomorrow everything in the ocean dies (acidification, whatever) except algae and other small multicellular life - what happens to terrestrial life?

It's not just about climate change. Even if the sceptics were right and global warning were a non-issue, we'd still have sustainability problems. I just read a book called "The Vegetarian Myth" by Lierre Keith, who makes the point that agriculture itself is like waging war against the soil - she argues against the idea that vegetarianism or veganism alone can provide a solution to sustainabilty in food production. Her basic problem statement is about inevitable topsoil loss through the production of annual monocrops, and about the dependency of agriculture on fertilizers and energy based on fossil fuels.

We're basically living on non-renewable fuels, water supplies, topsoil, and some mineral raw matrerials, all of which are supposedly not replenished or recycled fast enough to sustain the status quo, let alone industrial welfare for additional billions of people.


But topsoil and water supply aren't really human extinction questions - so the whole drastic action argument falls apart, because now you're just trading off your kids quality of life and your present quality of life. I can understand the issue with unsustainable practices like burning down the rainforest to get a few years worth of farmland which then becomes desert, but are we expecting that a bunch of arable land in the US India or China will suddenly become worthless?

Additionally, talk of sustainability seems a bit preemptive, since as the world population grows and developing countries demand more meat and fossil fuels, their price will go up which will force sustainability. The last drop of oil, so to speak, will be worth millions.

Hedonic Treader
Posts: 187
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Hedonic Treader » Sun Apr 25, 2010 4:56 pm UTC

Judicator wrote:But topsoil and water supply aren't really human extinction questions - so the whole drastic action argument falls apart, because now you're just trading off your kids quality of life and your present quality of life.

Ok, if your focus is only that Homo Sapiens survives as a species, topsoil loss will probably not endanger that directly, but I highly doubt that climate change does. We're billions, highly adaptive and resilient, and we're spread all around the globe. A small percentage of people will very probably manage to survive even in the harshest scenarios, probably with a much lower level of scientific and technological knowledge than we have now (memetic extinction, if you will).

However, we might also have to face the possibility that billions might die, and certainly not without a fight -> which will increase the probability of nuclear warfare given contemporary nuclear proliferation threats -> which in combination with an already significantly degraded resource base may consitute non-negligible existential risk (extinction or long-term curtailment of the future potential of humanity).

User avatar
Leafscar
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:25 pm UTC
Location: not telling.
Contact:

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Leafscar » Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:33 am UTC

While it may seem intuitive that having a smaller population of people on the earth will result in a higher standard of living for those few, due to greater natural resources available to them, killing off a large percentage of the population would actually result in the contrary, since today's (astronomically high for certain privileged populations...especially compared to the past when there were less people) standard of living is only possible with the available of a large population of people who are willing to do manual labor in order to survive. Keeping up the capitalistic supply chain requires many contributors, mostly from the lower income classes.

I don't remember the title or author but in my AP environmental class textbook, it isn't a lack of resources or food that is causing people to starve in poorer, overpopulated nations. It is the incredibly uneven distribution of these resources that is causing millions of people to die of easily curable diseases and malnutrition.

Also, contrary to what many think, allowing people to stay poor and starve to death in order to reduce human overpopulation in fact results in the exact opposite. In areas where parents expect their children to die young they have more children as a buffer, also, poor education is usually linked to such poverty which results in less or no birth control practices. In nations where young people perceive a brighter future and focus on their careers, having children is less of a priority. However, having the resources to survive comes before education, so saving lives now actually can result in a smaller population in the future. Most European countries and Japan are actually having problems with people not having enough kids. Population in the U.S. is only growing thanks to immigration.

How to help out third world countries is an entirely different matter and I don't know how to start with that. I mean, compare Indian and China, While India (as a democracy) has been receiving aid from the states for decades, is still considered a third world country, China was cut off from our aid and worked through her trials and tribulations alone, and has come out a lot stronger by taking full responsibility for her own well being (although there were many sacrifices).

I suppose that certain resources, such as our and water, are especially high risk. I've visited parts of the middle east where the treatment and conservation of water is a much different matter than here in the states. I'm not up to date on the facts but water could be a major cause of conflict in the near future.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:40 am UTC

djfatsostupid wrote:
Spoiler:
So morality isn't objective unless I have a magic moral wand, but truth gets to be objective despite the admitted lack of existence of a magic truth wand? Where is the objective standard of objectivity that is being used here?

This is exactly what I am talking about when I say that truth is just as subjective as morality. These days we largely rely on the scientific method and statistics to get at truth, but both of those things were invented in the last few centuries. Without either the ancient Greeks managed to do an awful lot of architecture. Their buildings didn't fall down, so they knew something, but by modern standards of knowledge they knew practically nothing. In fact, almost everything they regarded as true was objectively false - and spectacularly so - but they got a lot done with it.

If you are a dualist then the idea that there objectively exists morality should be pretty easy to understand, so I'll assume you aren't. If you are a materialist and you want to explain the idea of truth without needing a magic wand then, assuming you think that thoughts and ideas are *something* and not nothing, you must think that they are made of stuff. That stuff is the same stuff that comprises the objective morality (this is what being a materialist means, if you don't think this then why isn't morality the same kind of stuff as thoughts are?). What we call the "truth" of something (again, unless we are just talking nonsense) would have to be an object composed of matter/energy, having a volume and mass (I'm not going to make any suggestions about what that object would be like, it wouldn't necessarily have to be contiguous, it could be very big or very small, inside a brain or made of stuff outside of brains as well) that would have to be constructed by the things that call it the truth - those things being in this case humans (again, using the idea of "constructed" pretty liberally here). When you say that the truth would have to "correspond" to the objective world, we are talking (again, if about anything) about a physical relationship between two objects.


Let me see if I understand what you are saying, it appears you are saying that the material sum of the thought process in my subconscious which decides (based on the evolutionary factors and past experience) whether or not something is good or evil is an objective moral code because it exists in the objective world in the form of some arrangement of atoms. That is not an objective moral code. It is the objective representation of a subjectively derived moral judgement. An objective moral code is a big book in the sky that all creatures everywhere in the universe can point to and say "look, it says there that killing people is bad". If you claim that moral objectivity exists - point me to the book.

I'm talking more along the lines of propositional truth IE: A proposition is true if and only if it says something about the universe and what it says actually corresponds accurately with the universe. "Object x has more mass than object y" is true if and only if object x actually does have more mass than object y. We can subjectively judge the truth of the proposition by experimentation and logical argument but truth itself is an inherently objective idea which is what separates it from morality.

One thing can also be tastier than another.

I disagree, it isn't a true proposition to say that apples are tastier than plums because saying something is true is an objective statement and taste is an entirely subjective experience. It also isn't true that the sky is blue.

That is, do you think that in a pre-big-bang state of infinite heat, infinite density and maximal entropy (or even in a quantum-of-time-post-big-bang state) that the physical factors which define a relationship between two things that makes one of them a true idea about the other existed?


I'm sorry I don't understand this. I think you've misunderstood what I mentioned about something being true if it corresponds to the objective universe.

(People made it) + (It changes) + (It is what we would call an idea rather than what we would call an object) => It is subjective


Truth:
    People didn't make it, they gave it a name. Truth. It exists whether humans are here to make propositions or not.
    While the truth of a proposition may change due to it no longer corresponding with a dynamic universe the actual meaning of truth won't change.
    It is an idea.

Morality:
    People most certainly make it. Without people, it wouldn't exist.
    It constantly changes.
    It is an idea.

Let me try to explain, you have a universe devoid of life yet you can magically observe it (You are God :)). I show you the planet x has more mass than planet y, you measure their masses using your preferred method and conclude that the statement is either true or false. In the same universe I point you towards a black hole gobbling up all that it can and ask you if it is a good or bad thing - This question makes no sense because objective morality doesn't exist; yet the question instantly makes sense if I create a Human, put him on a planet being devoured by the black hole and ask if it is good or bad.

First of all, wars are desperately terrible things. That doesn't mean that everyone who participates in them on either side is necessarily evil. We have some idea of the standards that we need to apply to determine whether killing someone is really justified in a situation. In our laws we give someone a pass on killing another person if the killer very reasonably believed that the victim posed an immediate risk to someone else's life and if there was no reasonable option available to stop that aside from killing the person. I would say that killing the person is still bad. As I said, saying that sometimes there is a justification for doing something is not the same as saying that the thing isn't bad.


No of course not, people are drafted against their will and forced to fight or die - it would be unfair to call them evil; this is why I was careful to implicate only 'military leaders' - those who set out for war on the basis that Democracy/Communism/Christianity/Islam/<Enter supposed greater good> is better than the alternative form of Government/Religion. Regardless of which side they fight for you must see them as evil because they are employing the 'greater good' argument to justify killing.

Let's look at the question we have been asked to answer: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Earth?

I stand by the fact that "Killing people is bad" is a sufficient answer to that question


I would say we don't need to, the aim is to reduce population - we can do this passively by controlling birth rates instead of culling.

Hedonic Treader wrote:Here's a suggestion. How about we globally

- ban all cars
- ban all non-crucial air traffic
- ban all factory farming
- ban your X-Box

...before even thinking about killing people for sustainability reasons?


How exactly will any of your 'solutions' fix the issue of overpopulation? They are all addressing the symptoms of overpopulation while ignoring the elephant in the room.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Vaniver » Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:48 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs- I am still waiting for your admission that every other person advocating your position for the last two hundred years has made the wrong prediction, and your explanation why you are different.
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:42 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:SnakesNDMartyrs- I am still waiting for your admission that every other person advocating your position for the last two hundred years has made the wrong prediction, and your explanation why you are different.


I am happy to admit that, as long as you admit that the Earth can not sustain indefinite population growth. :)

I also don't consider this kind of inductive argument to be very effective. Previous over population arguments have been foiled (in part) by increases in technology, to inductively assume that further increases in technology will surface to foil this argument is illogical. In the same vein it is also illogical of me to dismiss the possibility of future technological growth. Essentially it comes down to the fact that we don't have crystal balls, predicting the future based on the past is as reliable as any other method of prediction.

I think that it is important to be wary of population growth and the issues it can cause, there is no need for alarmist doomsdayers and equally no need for overly optimistic naysayers. I see it as pragmatic to take a little action now to curb population growth - this can be as simple as spending money on birth control education in developing and 3rd world nations (better than spending money on aid later), or maybe it can be as drastic as enforced population control.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

Hedonic Treader
Posts: 187
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Hedonic Treader » Mon Apr 26, 2010 7:34 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:
Hedonic Treader wrote:Here's a suggestion. How about we globally

- ban all cars
- ban all non-crucial air traffic
- ban all factory farming
- ban your X-Box

...before even thinking about killing people for sustainability reasons?


How exactly will any of your 'solutions' fix the issue of overpopulation? They are all addressing the symptoms of overpopulation while ignoring the elephant in the room.

I'll state the obvious: The carrying capacity for human population on earth is not a constant, but a function of several variables, one of which is resource use per capita. As long as people waste resources for leisure purposes that could be substituted without causing more than just some minor preference frustrations, it's absurd to even start debating the ethics of killing people even in the context of utilitarianism, which at least in theory provides a hypothetical justification for killing people when it's necessary for the greater good.

Taking plane flights on vacation clearly demonstrates there is no such justification, since banning it would be one of the first immediate measures to improve carrying capacity. Of course, it has to be combined with other measuers like reproductive health services, or education and empowerment for girls and women in patriarchal societies, all of which could decrease population growth. When all of these measures fail and the problems still present themselves as drastic, then we have something to talk about here.

Judicator
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:49 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Judicator » Mon Apr 26, 2010 7:46 pm UTC

Hedonic Treader wrote:
Judicator wrote:But topsoil and water supply aren't really human extinction questions - so the whole drastic action argument falls apart, because now you're just trading off your kids quality of life and your present quality of life.

Ok, if your focus is only that Homo Sapiens survives as a species, topsoil loss will probably not endanger that directly, but I highly doubt that climate change does. We're billions, highly adaptive and resilient, and we're spread all around the globe. A small percentage of people will very probably manage to survive even in the harshest scenarios, probably with a much lower level of scientific and technological knowledge than we have now (memetic extinction, if you will).

However, we might also have to face the possibility that billions might die, and certainly not without a fight -> which will increase the probability of nuclear warfare given contemporary nuclear proliferation threats -> which in combination with an already significantly degraded resource base may consitute non-negligible existential risk (extinction or long-term curtailment of the future potential of humanity).


But the whole suggested "solution" is to kill billions - all this so we can prevent billions from *maybe* dying? You have a choice between billions dying now, with certainty, and billions dying in the future, with uncertainty. The latter is strictly better.

I don't know about your estimation of nuclear war as a logical result. What's less costly - a nuclear war with another major power, or draconic birth control policies like China has? Probably the latter - a country could implement this to head off rising food prices and war could be averted.

Leafscar wrote:While it may seem intuitive that having a smaller population of people on the earth will result in a higher standard of living for those few, due to greater natural resources available to them, killing off a large percentage of the population would actually result in the contrary, since today's (astronomically high for certain privileged populations...especially compared to the past when there were less people) standard of living is only possible with the available of a large population of people who are willing to do manual labor in order to survive. Keeping up the capitalistic supply chain requires many contributors, mostly from the lower income classes.


Really? How do the 2 billion people living on a dollar or so a day contribute to my standard of living? Industries like oil, manufacturing, and agriculture are very capital intensive, while many service industries are high skilled labor intensive.

User avatar
SummerGlauFan
Posts: 1746
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:27 pm UTC
Location: KS

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SummerGlauFan » Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:59 pm UTC

You might have noticed the "made in country x" stickers on all sorts of products. Those made in third world countries tend to be made by people who are paid next to nothing for their work, so your Nikes and televisions and Xbox don't cost too much.

Of course, automation would likely pick up the slack in producing things if this labor disappeared, but it is generally cheaper to make products using cheap foreign labor.
glasnt wrote:"As she raised her rifle against the creature, her hair fluttered beneath the red florescent lighting of the locked down building.

I knew from that moment that she was something special"


Outbreak, a tale of love and zombies.

In stores now.

Hedonic Treader
Posts: 187
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Hedonic Treader » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:38 am UTC

Judicator wrote:But the whole suggested "solution" is to kill billions - all this so we can prevent billions from *maybe* dying? You have a choice between billions dying now, with certainty, and billions dying in the future, with uncertainty. The latter is strictly better.

Not in all hypothetical scenarios - "population management" in a global police state scenario could theoretically prevent an escalation to tipping points where the problems take sudden turns for the worse. But I agree in regards to the actual real world, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

OTOH, China may have gotten something right with their one-child policy. A frustration in your reproduction preferences is preferable to the violent death or seriously degraded quality of life of existing people, if that's really the alternative.

I don't know about your estimation of nuclear war as a logical result. What's less costly - a nuclear war with another major power, or draconic birth control policies like China has? Probably the latter - a country could implement this to head off rising food prices and war could be averted.

Definitely the latter. But these aren't direct alternatives in any country's decision making. Global resource use and degradation is a dilemma of the commons; there may be parochial incentives for every player (nation, corporation etc.) to use more than what would be their share of a sustainable world. We certainly do so in industrialized countries right now - but even if we were good-willed environmentalists, given the premise that we're really already on overshoot, and there's no effective way to innovate ourselves out of it, the parochial incentives will probably become without compromise for virtually all players when core needs are affected.

And when the commons become so seriously degraded that it becomes clear that quite a number of people have to die, conflicts become inevitable. And in a world of nuclear proliferation, serious conflict of course always implies the probability of nuclear threat.

User avatar
bmonk
Posts: 662
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:14 pm UTC
Location: Schitzoed in the OTT between the 2100s and the late 900s. Hoping for singularity.

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby bmonk » Tue Apr 27, 2010 9:12 pm UTC

Leafscar wrote:While it may seem intuitive that having a smaller population of people on the earth will result in a higher standard of living for those few, due to greater natural resources available to them, killing off a large percentage of the population would actually result in the contrary, since today's (astronomically high for certain privileged populations...especially compared to the past when there were less people) standard of living is only possible with the available of a large population of people who are willing to do manual labor in order to survive. Keeping up the capitalistic supply chain requires many contributors, mostly from the lower income classes.

...

I suppose that certain resources, such as our and water, are especially high risk. I've visited parts of the middle east where the treatment and conservation of water is a much different matter than here in the states. I'm not up to date on the facts but water could be a major cause of conflict in the near future.

I agree with this argument. After the Black Death in mid-14th century Europe, the population was smaller, and (for example) food was more efficient to produce--the marginal land was left fallow, and only the more productive land was used. However, for about 30-50 years, the disruptions to the economy and culture reduced the standard of living. The smaller population should have made things better--but it didn't. Not in the short run.

Economic growth, which produces a higher standard of living, requires larger markets, and that means more consumers.
Having become a Wizard on n.p. 2183, the Yellow Piggy retroactively appointed his honorable self a Temporal Wizardly Piggy on n.p.1488, not to be effective until n.p. 2183, thereby avoiding a partial temporal paradox. Since he couldn't afford two philosophical PhDs to rule on the title.

Judicator
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:49 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Judicator » Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:45 am UTC

Hedonic Treader wrote:Not in all hypothetical scenarios - "population management" in a global police state scenario could theoretically prevent an escalation to tipping points where the problems take sudden turns for the worse. But I agree in regards to the actual real world, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

OTOH, China may have gotten something right with their one-child policy. A frustration in your reproduction preferences is preferable to the violent death or seriously degraded quality of life of existing people, if that's really the alternative.


I don't know why there should be something like a "tipping point" for food consumption - food consumption isn't the sort of thing where once the 10 billionth person eats, we will all start eating more and more. As food gets harder to produce because of reduced freshwater or running out of rainforest to chop down in Brazil, it will become more expensive over time.

China's problem in 50 years will be a demographic crisis - they will have 1 working person trying to provide elderly care for nearly 2 people. This will continue with every generation they have social support programs for the elderly and have the 1 child policy.

Hedonic Treader wrote:Definitely the latter. But these aren't direct alternatives in any country's decision making. Global resource use and degradation is a dilemma of the commons; there may be parochial incentives for every player (nation, corporation etc.) to use more than what would be their share of a sustainable world. We certainly do so in industrialized countries right now - but even if we were good-willed environmentalists, given the premise that we're really already on overshoot, and there's no effective way to innovate ourselves out of it, the parochial incentives will probably become without compromise for virtually all players when core needs are affected.

And when the commons become so seriously degraded that it becomes clear that quite a number of people have to die, conflicts become inevitable. And in a world of nuclear proliferation, serious conflict of course always implies the probability of nuclear threat.


Conservation of shared resources is a problem of the commons, but a question like food supply is a function of privately owned arable land and nationally controlled freshwater supplies. One solution here is privatize water supply. Another option would be to allow it to be exhausted, after which you'll have a minimal public water supply, coupled with expensive (but private) desalination.

I can't see a nuke fight being feasible until people in first world countries are spending 50-80% of their incomes on food. This isn't going to happen for a long long time, if ever, and people will be constantly taking steps to avoid it, taking the easiest steps first. First, people might become vegetarian, they will start growing their own crops, collecting rainwater, etc. Wasteful biofuel production will halt, farmers will switch to growing whatever crops produce the most calories/acre/year. There is a ton we could do before it came to war.

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Vaniver » Wed Apr 28, 2010 1:02 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:I am happy to admit that, as long as you admit that the Earth can not sustain indefinite population growth. :)
I agree there are limits to the growth rate of population, and that the Earth has finite volume and energy radiance from the sun. I am unconvinced that the last two constraints will be relevant before the end of humanity's relevance.

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:I also don't consider this kind of inductive argument to be very effective. Previous over population arguments have been foiled (in part) by increases in technology, to inductively assume that further increases in technology will surface to foil this argument is illogical. In the same vein it is also illogical of me to dismiss the possibility of future technological growth. Essentially it comes down to the fact that we don't have crystal balls, predicting the future based on the past is as reliable as any other method of prediction.
I would argue that predicting the future based on the past is better than any other method of prediction, unless that method of prediction has been confirmed by experiment.

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:I think that it is important to be wary of population growth and the issues it can cause, there is no need for alarmist doomsdayers and equally no need for overly optimistic naysayers. I see it as pragmatic to take a little action now to curb population growth - this can be as simple as spending money on birth control education in developing and 3rd world nations (better than spending money on aid later), or maybe it can be as drastic as enforced population control.
Drastic measures are only suited for drastic times. I agree that efforts should be made to increase access to birth control, as well as decreasing infant mortality and increasing incomes, such that taking birth control becomes a cost-effective decision. I don't think that there's a credible justification for endorsing the enforcement of population control (China's tax on second and later children might be the best response to their situation- but that means it should be grudgingly tolerated, not endorsed).
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

Hedonic Treader
Posts: 187
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Hedonic Treader » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:26 am UTC

Judicator wrote:I don't know why there should be something like a "tipping point" for food consumption - food consumption isn't the sort of thing where once the 10 billionth person eats, we will all start eating more and more. As food gets harder to produce because of reduced freshwater or running out of rainforest to chop down in Brazil, it will become more expensive over time.

There may be no tipping point of the sort that have been hypothezised for climate change, and I acknowledge the negative feedback of cost/consumption. But food requires a baseline of consumption for survival, and there is positive feedback in the sense that if we wanted to opt for sustainable production techniques that produce less output than conventional agriculture (e.g. local use of perennial polycultures grazed by ruminants without topsoil loss vs. industrial production of annual monocrops with inevitable topsoil loss), at some point this is no longer an option if you have to feed a larger population than you can with the sustainable methods.

In this sense, the "tipping point" is the point where population grows beyond what can be sustained without degrading the resource base. After that point, there will be overwhelming political pressure to actually degrade that resource base. And considering we're practically using almost all the arable land on earth at the same time, there may be a time when significant amounts of it become unproductive for agricultural use roughly at the same time.

China's problem in 50 years will be a demographic crisis - they will have 1 working person trying to provide elderly care for nearly 2 people. This will continue with every generation they have social support programs for the elderly and have the 1 child policy.

Yes, that is a good point.

Judicator
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:49 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Judicator » Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:06 pm UTC

QFT'ing: No.

-Az

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:57 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I would argue that predicting the future based on the past is better than any other method of prediction, unless that method of prediction has been confirmed by experiment.


There is no logical reason to think so. Given that you admit there are limits to population growth, you must also admit that if the population continues to grow an 'Over-population Argument' will be accurate at some time in the future in spite of all the attempts that failed previously. It is pragmatic for us to err on the side of caution when dealing with the survival of humanity and as such, we should not dismiss an 'Over-population Argument' on the basis that the previous arguments making the same predictions have not come to pass.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

Snowblind
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2010 3:47 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Snowblind » Thu Apr 29, 2010 4:00 am UTC

Two observations:
the extinction of the human race is entirely acceptable: if we evolve into homo (something) then the current race has been replaced by the more evolved species.

Secondly, exterminating the current species by artificial means will potentially derail our evolutionary path. Assuming we have not already done so...

Allowing the crash will achieve the postulated result of the Th. Of Evo. : we will have evolved,adapted, or gone extinct.

Oh, and "hi".

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Thu Apr 29, 2010 5:01 am UTC

Snowblind wrote:the extinction of the human race is entirely acceptable: if we evolve into homo (something) then the current race has been replaced by the more evolved species.


Evolution is not the same as extinction. The idea of the different 'homo' species up to homo-sapiens isn't really accurate, it is just a way for us to make sense of our evolution by arbitrarily grouping time periods together with evolutionary epochs. In essence, we are the same species as Homo-Erectus - just more evolved. If you want to get really picky, Homo-Erectus didn't become extinct, it never really existed in the first place :)

Secondly, exterminating the current species by artificial means will potentially derail our evolutionary path. Assuming we have not already done so...

Allowing the crash will achieve the postulated result of the Th. Of Evo. : we will have evolved,adapted, or gone extinct.


Evolution isn't a path, it has no 'postulated result' or desired outcome. It is just a process of random mutation and natural selection that over time causes awesomeness to happen. How the outcome of a decision like killing billions of people might affect human evolution is the least of our worries.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

Hedonic Treader
Posts: 187
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Hedonic Treader » Thu Apr 29, 2010 7:15 am UTC

Snowblind wrote:the extinction of the human race is entirely acceptable: if we evolve into homo (something) then the current race has been replaced by the more evolved species.

When discussing extinction risks through ecosystem collapse, climate change etc., it makes sense to use Bostrom's definition of existential risk: "One where an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential."

This way you can consider the "when we become more X, will we really be humans anymore?" question off-topic for the sake of the extinction discussion.

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:Evolution isn't a path, it has no 'postulated result' or desired outcome. It is just a process of random mutation and natural selection that over time causes awesomeness to happen.

Yes, awesomeness and beauty and agony and suffering - we should not make the mistake to treat evolution as an inherently good thing, or an ethical goal in itself.

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Vaniver » Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:28 pm UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:There is no logical reason to think so.
Actually, believing in the past instead of your imagination is what logic is all about.

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:Given that you admit there are limits to population growth, you must also admit that if the population continues to grow an 'Over-population Argument' will be accurate at some time in the future in spite of all the attempts that failed previously.
No, I am not convinced that it will happen at some point in the future. My predictive power does not extend that far, and I do not see it happening in the span which I can predict.

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:It is pragmatic for us to err on the side of caution when dealing with the survival of humanity and as such, we should not dismiss an 'Over-population Argument' on the basis that the previous arguments making the same predictions have not come to pass.
The argument that "there may be an absolute limit to human population" is not one that can be dismissed- but the argument that "we are about to reach the absolute limit to human population" is easily dismissed. Do you see how those are different arguments, and how the possible existence of an absolute limit does not warrant drastic action now?
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:34 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Actually, believing in the past instead of your imagination is what logic is all about.


It is logically invalid to assume that the future will behave like the past. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction

No, I am not convinced that it will happen at some point in the future. My predictive power does not extend that far, and I do not see it happening in the span which I can predict.


I think you misread what I said.

You admit there are limits to population growth.
Therefore, you must also admit that if the population continues to grow - it will reach that limit at some time in the future.
Therefore, an 'Over-population argument' will be accurate at some time in the future if the population continues to grow, regardless of how many failed arguments came before it.

The argument that "there may be an absolute limit to human population" is not one that can be dismissed- but the argument that "we are about to reach the absolute limit to human population" is easily dismissed. Do you see how those are different arguments, and how the possible existence of an absolute limit does not warrant drastic action now?


Of course. I think you misunderstood my point. The argument that "we are about to reach the absolute limit to human population" can not be dismissed by simply saying "all previous over population arguments were wrong, therefore this over population argument is wrong".

Hedonic Treader wrote:Yes, awesomeness and beauty and agony and suffering - we should not make the mistake to treat evolution as an inherently good thing, or an ethical goal in itself.


I consider agony and suffering to be just as awesome as happiness and pleasure :) But I completely understand your point.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Vaniver » Sat May 01, 2010 1:35 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:It is logically invalid to assume that the future will behave like the past. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction
You realize the "problem of induction" calls into question all empiricism, correct? Either you believe in induction, or you're lying.

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:I think you misread what I said.
No, I didn't. I believe there is a limit to the rate of population growth for the foreseeable future. I believe that if there are absolute limits, they will be reached after the period which I am confident about making predictions about: which is, for long-run discussions like this, at most 100 years.

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:The argument that "we are about to reach the absolute limit to human population" can not be dismissed by simply saying "all previous over population arguments were wrong, therefore this over population argument is wrong".
That's not the argument. The argument is that "We are about to reach the absolute limit to human population because of X" has been around for two centuries, and is consistently wrong. If you said "we are about to reach the absolute limit to human population because of Y," then the argument would be worth considering. But if you expect us to be convinced by X, sorry- we believe in facts.
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

User avatar
thc
Posts: 643
Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:01 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby thc » Sat May 01, 2010 2:31 am UTC

I don't understand how you can make those arguments, Vaniver. There is MORE than abundant evidence that humans are living unsustainably, not least of which is the fact that were basically destroying entire ecoystems in order to feed our desires. What do you think will happen when we run out of ecoystems to destroy?

If you want to play the inductive game, why don't why don't we look at something based in the physical world rather than things only in the minds of men long dead: carrying capacity and exponential systems. 1) Since every ecosystem has a carrying capacity, it follows that our ecoystem does too. 2) We already KNOW what happens in exponential systems with fixed point attractors. CHAOS. And not the pretty multi-colored fractal type, but the CRASH and BURN and MASS DEATH type.

Furthermore, "absolute limit" != carrying capacity. It's quite possible, perhaps even likely, that we're already past the carrying capacity. If that's true, every year we spend in exponential growth will make the crash worse.

So even if like you say we won't reach the "absolute limit" anytime soon, the point is, it WILL happen. And honestly, maybe I've been brainwashed by hippie environmentalists, but given the absolute shit that's been going on in the news, it really doesn't seem so far in the distant future to me.

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Vaniver » Sat May 01, 2010 5:20 am UTC

thc wrote:I don't understand how you can make those arguments, Vaniver. There is MORE than abundant evidence that humans are living unsustainably, not least of which is the fact that were basically destroying entire ecoystems in order to feed our desires. What do you think will happen when we run out of ecoystems to destroy?
We will substitute them with new ones?

thc wrote:And honestly, maybe I've been brainwashed by hippie environmentalists, but given the absolute shit that's been going on in the news, it really doesn't seem so far in the distant future to me.
I suspect that's because you aren't familiar with the recent past, let alone the distant past. Almost every resource humanity has exploited they've done at "unsustainable" levels, both because projections of future supply tended to be pessimistic (at least, among those calling the situation unsustainable) and because resources have substitutes. Why practice sustainable whaling when kerosene is around the corner? Why worry about peak oil, when our energy storage needs can be met other ways? When you look at things from an engineering or an economics standpoint, it's clear how predictions that current supplies are insufficient are irrelevant. If mining groundwater will only work for so long, then what will replace it?
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

Goplat
Posts: 490
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 11:41 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Goplat » Sat May 01, 2010 5:57 am UTC

And why not buy an expensive home and sell it back for a profit when the value has increased? As we all know, real estate never goes down in value. -- Person from 2005

User avatar
thc
Posts: 643
Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:01 am UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby thc » Sat May 01, 2010 7:51 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:We will substitute them with new ones?
Can you state explicitly what you're trying to say instead of just being snarky please.

I suspect that's because you aren't familiar with the recent past, let alone the distant past. Almost every resource humanity has exploited they've done at "unsustainable" levels, both because projections of future supply tended to be pessimistic (at least, among those calling the situation unsustainable) and because resources have substitutes. Why practice sustainable whaling when kerosene is around the corner? Why worry about peak oil, when our energy storage needs can be met other ways? When you look at things from an engineering or an economics standpoint, it's clear how predictions that current supplies are insufficient are irrelevant. If mining groundwater will only work for so long, then what will replace it?
Again with the inductive argument. I'll accept the premise and argue why things are REALLY different this time when you address my inductive argument: every other creature that has ever been studied in any ecosystem has been limited by carrying capacity. Secondly, due to mathematics of chaotic systems, we can probably guess what happens with unchecked exponential growth above the carrying capacity, and that is large scale die-offs.

iluvdacolorsss
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:46 am UTC
Location: some bubble
Contact:

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby iluvdacolorsss » Sat May 01, 2010 8:51 am UTC

Like John Lennon said. "Nothing good ever came out of violence." Not even a revolution that was fought with violence. That whole entire push a button argument is completely black and white, wherein moral things aren't always black and white. Good question. But it resorts to killing as a necessary thing. Also the whole meat industry is was supposedly make up for a lot of the ozone depletion. SO why don't we just STOP killing those animals. Have the population stabilize again. Cause i bet you there'd be a whole lot less cows if we stopped raising them. And then maybe some of that food we feed them could go to someone who needs it too?

Hedonic Treader
Posts: 187
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Eart

Postby Hedonic Treader » Sat May 01, 2010 10:52 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:If mining groundwater will only work for so long, then what will replace it?

That is exactly the right question, but you have to ask it for all vital functions on which civilization depends, and we can't assume that there's a good answer for each and every one of them. We actually have to identify all the factors, and give good answers to each of them.

And in addition to the replacement of limiting resources, we'll also have to deal with the entropic accumulation of waste products such as toxic chemicals, greenhouse gases, nuclear waste, and other forms of garbage. There are two metabolic functions that an organism needs to address: Meeting its needs for low-entropy resources to sustain its vital functions, and getting rid of high-entropy waste products that threaten to accumulate. This is true for biological organisms, and presumably for all self-sustaining systems, and I think human civilization is no exception.

In the past, there always were new regions to discover/conquer for their resources, and you'd always find a place to toss garbage without impeding some vital function of human civilization. Considering that thorough globalization combined with industrialization is a historically very recent development, this may no longer be true. Whether or not new technologies can bail us out is an open question. It's quite conceivable that it can, but that's far from certain yet.


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests