Home Forums Deep Time Journey Forum Big History's anthropocentric bias Reply To: Big History's anthropocentric bias

#2872
Karen Chaffee
Participant

Okay, let me see if I can wrap my mind around this–I didn’t actually do any reading so I’ll just respond off the cuff!
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Germs may control our thoughts. Germs-R-Us. I won’t dispute this –we are our bodies and the microbes are part of our bodies. I’m aware that many bacteria are beneficial, and so don’t simply think of them as bad things.
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You make the point that bacterial can live without us, but we can’t live without them. (nitrogen fixing bacteria is an example.) This seems correct and indisputable. Plants, animals including one-celled, would go on without us, we would die quickly without the biosphere. .
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Bacteria’s metabolic diversity is greater than all animals. I’m going to grant you this–animals evolved along a similar path (to each other) and have lesser diversity therefore.
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I guess where I’d like your help is to understand your larger point. If I grant all these things about bacteria–they are more numerous, they were here longer, they are more self-sufficient than humans–how does that make me understand how to be a better person? Are you asking us to be more green and environmentally conscious? Are you simply asking us to be more humble? A mosquito can fly and I can’t. A fish can live underwater and I can’t. I can’t exist in extreme climates but bacteria can. I feel like you are aware of a paradigm that is unfamiliar to me. Perhaps you want us to say: I live in a mortal human body, somewhat frail, will certainly die some day, have no control over that fate, so I must be humble (all too true!) Or are you asking us to love the Earth better? I am asking with great respect, because I’d like to understand!
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On a gut level, all you say may be true, but I still will ‘care’ about creatures with brains. (And in this I am not saying I want to destroy the biosphere and the bacteria in my gut because they don’t have brains; but I think you realize I don’t!) We, remarkable creatures, are nonetheless highly dependent on our surroundings. Is that so bad? Maybe our frailty (and our emotion and sense of loss) makes us endearing. We are capable of caring about bacteria, but bacteria is not capable of caring about us. If I knew that shortly after I died, all other life forms were to die, leaving only bacteria on the Earth, I would feel profound sadness, truly, and not, I guess, see it as a triumph for the more adaptable bacteria. (Have you read the book, “The Road” that describes just such an outcome?) The quote from Lynn Margulis was a source of confusion for me ( I did however go on line and read more–I think she means to say that we should clarify ourselves and say that we are ‘trying to save the Earth as a good place for humans and higher animals to live’, because the “Earth’ will go on without humans and higher life forms.) Granting her this point–she is right, but I feel in a in a sort of trivial way–surely we should try to save the Earth for our children (and horses and birds and insects and trees) who will follow us? We are natural creatures too, and we are part of nature–our aggressions come from the same place that bacteria’s aggressive colonizing comes from–a natural drive to live. Who is to say we are second best–maybe we are not, maybe humans are profoundly natural and our will to live is profoundly natural, and our gut feel that we too belong here is not wrong. (I am really happy to learn where I am wrong and also what Lynn Margulis meant!)
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By the way–a new paradigm for you (and everyone) –Carbon! We, the bacteria, the virus, and all other creatures depend on carbon and wouldn’t be here without it. I am trying to discover how carbon came to its remarkable properties as a function of forces and symmetries that evolved in the first second of the Big Bang! It’s not my field so I am struggling to learn! It’s an adventure for me. Check out my post!