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Zanzibar
April 27th, 2005, 09:38 AM
Well, with the last one well and truly gone, I thought I'd spice things up with a little bit of philosophy. What the hell are humans? How do you see us as a species in real life? Have you altered us to suit your writing, or have you read something in which we are different?

I see us as being a generally negative species. There are too many glaring contradictions between us and the rest of the animals on this planet. We're the only ones who destroy our own kind for reasons other than survival. We are the only ones who pose a threat to the health and continued survival of the planet. We are the only ones who have a dangerously high rate of reproduction.

We are capable of producing great beauty, I believe this, but I think that for every one person striving to attain this beauty there are hundreds or thousands who would tear it apart for whatever reason. As a whole, we seem to be rooted in the negative. We thrive on it. One need only look at the news. At least seventy-five percent of news stories are tales of death, despair, violence, or politicking that will surely lead us to one of these things. Violence must be a part of our very species for us to be so attracted to it.

KatG
April 27th, 2005, 12:27 PM
Well, perception is a complicated thing.


We're the only ones who destroy our own kind for reasons other than survival.

Actually, we've found that dolphins will kill each other and related species for sport, though we don't yet know why. Goldfish will happily eat each other, even if they are being perfectly well-fed in an aquarium. There are other instances that are being studied. The larger predator animals and the apes do sometimes kill each other dominance issues, which is related to survival but not strictly due to survival needs. And most humans, though not all, do not kill the children of their mate by another male, as lions and some other species do. Which is not to say that we aren't really bloodthirsty, but the idea of pure and benevolent animals is a bit of wishful thinking.


We are the only ones who pose a threat to the health and continued survival of the planet.

Well, there are also species of algae and bacteria that cause red tides and the like and devastate the ocean ecosystem, viruses that cause mass death of humans and animal life (and which the WHO expects to devastate us shortly,) bacteria that play havoc on plant populations, and then there're cows, but that cows are a danger to the world is really our fault, so I guess it doesn't strictly count.


We are the only ones who have a dangerously high rate of reproduction.

Cockroaches have a dangerously high rate of reproduction. And army ants. Also possibly termites. Deer and coyotes don't technically have a dangerously high rate of reproduction, but do have one high enough that with human development squeezing them into close contact with us, they pose some big problems. Many species that have lost their natural predators have explosive growth that hurts both that species and the environment. And non-native animals and plants introduced to countries that have no way of checking them often develop dangerously high rates of reproduction.

In the meantime, the human rate of reproduction seems to be slowing. Women in developed countries are having fewer babies later or not at all. Studies have found that males are less fertile than they used to be and less likely to produce male children, possibly because of environmental pollution factors. In many countries that culturally favor male babies over female ones, they now face a problem of a lack of females. In a number of European countries, the reproduction rate has dropped below replacement levels (the amount needed to replace those who die.) In areas of Canada, the birth rate is so low that the government provides tax incentives to try and get people to have more children. Which is not to say that we don't have a lot of people on the planet, but that maybe the birth rate is no longer a runaway train.


One need only look at the news. At least seventy-five percent of news stories are tales of death, despair, violence, or politicking that will surely lead us to one of these things. Violence must be a part of our very species for us to be so attracted to it.

Well that's exactly where you shouldn't be looking. The amount of war, murder, violence, even the repression of women and the exploitation of children, have been reduced over the years. (Which doesn't help the population growth slow down, I guess.) Yet the coverage of such instances in the news media has quadrupled over the last three decades. "If it bleeds, it leads," is their motto, whereas more positive stories tend to get shelved to make room for increased sports coverage. Television news has also taken to doing "scare" stories, where they pretend to be warning consummers about dire threats that are unlikely to ever occur to get you to watch their news programs. It presents a very slanted and inaccurate view of what's going on with the human species that adds to the reasonable fears we already have.

We are a violent species and may always be so. Life on the planet tends to be violent. But must you lump us all in with the serial killers? :)

Zanzibar
April 27th, 2005, 01:59 PM
You're a fiesty opponent Kat ;) and you keep turning my threads back on me!


We're the only ones who destroy our own kind for reasons other than survival.
Alright, alright, I'll narrow the focus some. We're the only species that's ever committed such extreme cases of murder as genocide against ourselves. The ratio of dolphin murders compared to human murders is most definitely heavily stacked in our favor (or rather, against us).


We are the only ones who pose a threat to the health and continued survival of the planet.
Yes, things like sexitoxin (probably spelled it incorrectly) do pose a threat to the living organisms of this planet but we're the only ones in danger of overcrowding it's space simply by size and weight of numbers.


We are the only ones who have a dangerously high rate of reproduction.
It's our unwillingness to cull our own numbers that's the problem. Population control will NEVER be accepted, I think. We have no predators aside from ourselves and we don't kill ourselves quickly enough (that's a little morbid). If it ever happens, it'll be the stuff of wars. Also, the size thing crops up here again. Cockroach population may be high (which is our fault anyway) but their numbers will hardly lead to them wiping out entire species'. We're the only one's who've made other species extinct, aren't we?


One need only look at the news. At least seventy-five percent of news stories are tales of death, despair, violence, or politicking that will surely lead us to one of these things. Violence must be a part of our very species for us to be so attracted to it.
Therein lies my point. The media plays for us what we crave. We're a sanguinary lot and that's not gonna change.


We are a violent species and may always be so. Life on the planet tends to be violent.
We make it so.


But must you lump us all in with the serial killers?
I didn't say anything about serial killers. Do you have a guilty conscience :eek: ?

TheEarCollector
April 27th, 2005, 02:14 PM
Yes, things like sexitoxin (probably spelled it incorrectly) do pose a threat to the living organisms of this planet but we're the only ones in danger of overcrowding it's space simply by numbers.

It's our unwillingness to cull our own numbers that's the problem. Population control will NEVER be accepted, I think. We have no predators aside from ourselves and we don't kill ourselves quickly enough (that's a little morbid). If it ever happens, it'll be the stuff of wars. Also, the size thing crops up here again. Cockroach population may be high (which is our fault anyway) but their numbers will hardly lead to them wiping out entire species'. We're the only one's who've made other species extinct, aren't we?

Well let's look at this... It's not really a problem of our species as it occurs in nature, but rather of how we have tampered with nature.
Obesity is inarguably a growing trend, but looking back to our caveman past, it becomes quite clear that the obese could not hunt, and therefore would die. Problem solved.
Then we invented the plow.
Alright, so we have some people farming, and we have other people getting fat and happy... not a big deal.
Then we get antibiotics and other medical advances.
Now we are telling people that nature said was too weak and giving them a second chance because we believe every life is a precious thing...

It's not that we are reproducing so fast that we will engulf the world, it's that we aren't allowing those who are marked for death to die. On top of that, we are not going to overpopulate the world anytime soon. You can say that for places like India and China maybe, but they will run out of a food source and they will die... Nature always balances itself. While you are arguing how humans have destroyed the world through overpopulation in areas like that though, you might want to take a look at the US, Canada and Europe which are relatively empty, we aren't going to overrun the world through numbers anytime soon.

As far as violence goes, Kat hit it dead on. Life is violent. Life is a struggle, and struggles are always violent. There isn't a species on this planet that doesn't fight for survival. FIGHT. We don't make it so, we do what we have to.
The media thrives on violence because it is low complexity. People understand it, therefore it gets there attention. If they can make it more general, even better, because then everyone fears things that will never happen to them... That's why the elderly are so scared to go in Tacoma, Washington, it's because some guy got shot at Walmart. Nobody ever mentions the fact that the guy was shot at 3am in the projects of Chicago, it only matters that it was a Walmart, and that sounds familiar.
It's not that we crave it, it's all about saliency. People don't want to hear about public policy because it has no shock value and they don't understand it. EVERYONE understands violence because it is one of the most basic elements of nature.

Zanzibar
April 27th, 2005, 02:23 PM
It's not that we are reproducing so fast that we will engulf the world, it's that we aren't allowing those who are marked for death to die. On top of that, we are not going to overpopulate the world anytime soon. You can say that for places like India and China maybe, but they will run out of a food source and they will die... Nature always balances itself. While you are arguing how humans have destroyed the world through overpopulation in areas like that though, you might want to take a look at the US, Canada and Europe which are relatively empty, we aren't going to overrun the world through numbers anytime soon.
I said that we're the species that's going to kill this planet. Given enough time, we WILL outgrow it. Beyond that, there are only a finite number of resources for use to muster. Already we're running out of oil and coal (and I don't mean in the next ten years, I mean in the hundreds). This stuff isn't produced as quickly as we need it to be. Also, we're the reason this planet's warming up. All that greenhouse crap is our fault and it's destroying the world (very slowly). If and when the polar icecaps melt, all of that empty land in Canada and the U.S. will disappear.


As far as violence goes, Kat hit it dead on. Life is violent. Life is a struggle, and struggles are always violent. There isn't a species on this planet that doesn't fight for survival. FIGHT. We don't make it so, we do what we have to.
I never disagreed with this. In fact, I agree with it wholeheartedly. What I meant was we produce more violence than is natural. Killing for survival is fine but killing because your boyfriend slept with your sister while you were at work is irrational. Hence, we're an overly violent species.


The media thrives on violence because it is low complexity. People understand it, therefore it gets there attention. If they can make it more general, even better, because then everyone fears things that will never happen to them... That's why the elderly are so scared to go in Tacoma, Washington, it's because some guy got shot at Walmart. Nobody ever mentions the fact that the guy was shot at 3am in the projects of Chicago, it only matters that it was a Walmart, and that sounds familiar.
It's not that we crave it, it's all about saliency. People don't want to hear about public policy because it has no shock value and they don't understand it. EVERYONE understands violence because it is one of the most basic elements of nature.
Good point, though I think there's more to it. A woman giving birth to octuplets is as simple as, or even moreso than, a shooting spree and yet, while the former would make the news and have everyone smiling, the latter would be the lead story and would last twice as long. Yes we understand violence, but we're also drawn to it. It entices us. We crave it, and that's a little strange to me.

Expendable
April 27th, 2005, 03:24 PM
I'm so very familiar with the violence, petty jealousies and irrational paranoia we as a species can dish out. Especially against the ones who look or act different. Sometimes we are so short-sighted we don't realize the damage we do to ourselves and others.

A mere accusation's sufficient to ruin lives and careers - even if the person making the accusation is proven to be lying.

Rather than do the right thing, some stay silent, just trying to survive by pretending ignorance.

But some rise above this, accepting everyone equally, working hard to improve the lives of everyone. Humans are the sums of their failures and sucesses.

KatG
April 27th, 2005, 10:19 PM
You're a fiesty opponent Kat ;) and you keep turning my threads back on me!

Wow, I don't think anyone's called me feisty before.


Alright, alright, I'll narrow the focus some. We're the only species that's ever committed such extreme cases of murder as genocide against ourselves. The ratio of dolphin murders compared to human murders is most definitely heavily stacked in our favor (or rather, against us).

Agreed, but under certain circumstances, populations of animals can become homicidal. Rats particularly. In many ways, we are the same.


Yes, things like sexitoxin (probably spelled it incorrectly) do pose a threat to the living organisms of this planet but we're the only ones in danger of overcrowding it's space simply by size and weight of numbers.

You'd have to check with a biologist on the numbers of that. But you didn't say we were the only species to threaten the planet by our population. You said we were the only species to threaten the planet.


It's our unwillingness to cull our own numbers that's the problem. Population control will NEVER be accepted, I think. We have no predators aside from ourselves and we don't kill ourselves quickly enough (that's a little morbid). If it ever happens, it'll be the stuff of wars. Also, the size thing crops up here again. Cockroach population may be high (which is our fault anyway) but their numbers will hardly lead to them wiping out entire species'. We're the only one's who've made other species extinct, aren't we?

Population control is one of the reasons the population growth has slowed and in some areas, fallen past previous levels. Women are having fewer babies later in life or not at all, the proportion being entirely related to whether the women are living in poverty or not, and have access to education, work and political representation or not. In the U.S. for instance, we have a lot of extremists extolling the virtues of producing babies and trying to change laws, but we also have a much greater number of women who are contributing to a declining birth rate, a declining teen pregnancy rate, etc.

We do have other predators besides ourselves, chiefly those bacteria and viruses that the health watchdogs are saying will shortly kill millions of us. We are also subject to natural disasters, such as the tsuanami. Various insects and other creatures having massive population growth can endanger human populations, sometimes on a broad scale. Non-native species introduced into areas have wiped out native animal and plant species, though not, obviously, on the scale with which we've deliberately or accidentally caused extinctions. Extinctions happen all the time in nature -- the problem is we've created too many of them too fast. But there are also millions of people who work very hard to stop that problem, and saying they are rooted in the negative seems a bit unfair.


Therein lies my point. The media plays for us what we crave. We're a sanguinary lot and that's not gonna change.

No, the media plays us for what we fear. If they can scare us, we'll watch the news to try and get information, not because it's familiar or titilating but because we're anxious. They ignore the murder in the Chicago ghetto, because people don't really care about a murder in the ghetto, (unless perhaps they live there.) They play up the murder in the Wal Mart because people realize that such a murder might randomly happen to them, because it scares them. Crime happening to white people or performed by white people in the States or Canada gets more attention because the white majority fears it may happen to them. In an age where all the cop shows are struggling to come up with plots because the murder rates are dropping, we have loads of people terrified about violence and believing we live in a more violent and self-destructive world because the news media paints a portrait that contradicts reality.


I didn't say anything about serial killers. Do you have a guilty conscience :eek: ?

You said we were all negative, violent-loving and acting, murderous monsters, is what you said. I'm just objecting to that characterization of my personality. :) There are a lot of nasty people in the world. There are a lot of hurting people in the world. But there are an awful lot of good people in the world too, many of them dealing with the weight of world-wide problems they can't control and can do little to fix. (You may be interested in a thread in Scott Bakker's forum called "Are We Doomed" where we talked about this stuff.) I tend to write about all sorts of humans, and I can imagine scenarios where we fix everything or we blow everything up. I don't think you can lump everyone into one mold just because we were all born on the planet. I don't think you can say, hey, look at the genocidal killers, and ignore those who risked their lives to save others from such genocides. Our altruism may be as interesting to study as our visciousness.

choppy
April 28th, 2005, 12:29 AM
As I understand biology, just about any species will continue to expand to the point of consuming it's resources if it can. I don't think this is a unique trait of humans at all. Fortunately, as the Ear Collector said, nature tends to balance things out.

What's unique about the human species is our survival strategy. We have these massive brains that require enormous amounts of and a steady supply of food to keep going. The payoff is innovation (or as we used to say in the army, "Improvise, adapt, and overcome!"). We're able to change the rules of the game, by small increments.

By nature, humans are physically lazy. I think this is an evolved trait. Because of our ability to innovate, physicaly laziness is an advantage. Nature rewards the person who sits down and figures out how to feed his or her family in a sustainable manner, more than it does the one who puts all his or her heart and muscle into catching the elusive beast. (There does have to be a bit of a balance though. Nature is pretty cruel, regardless of your survival strategy.)

What's interesting in a lot of speculative fiction (at the risk of steering this thread back to writing) is that we consider human-like species that embobdy similar survival strategies, but ones that aren't necessarily the same. In these stories we amplify certain characteristics we see in ourselves and draw out logical conclusions. I believe this is the reason for a lot of the archetypes in the folktales of different cultures. Evil characters are often the dark "trolls who live under the bridge." Their behaviour is more instinctual, and less innovative. Characters or species that embody innovation tend to come across as good. How many heroes learn a lesson before the end of the story?

I'll be off on vacation for a while, but I'm going to leave y'all with a question. If humans encounter another intelligent species that we would presumably be in competition with for resources necessary for our survival, would armed conflict be inevitable?

Zanzibar
April 28th, 2005, 10:11 AM
Alright, before I go on arguing my seemingly futile argument, I'd like to reiterate (or just "iterate") the point of this series of threads: It's to give your opinion of the race in question, not "Jump all over Zanzibar and beat him down with politely pointed-out inconsistancies in his argument (though I do love to argue ;) )!.

You'd have to check with a biologist on the numbers of that. But you didn't say we were the only species to threaten the planet by our population. You said we were the only species to threaten the planet.
Fair enough, I didn't, but I am now and that's where I'm staying.


Population control is one of the reasons the population growth has slowed and in some areas, fallen past previous levels. Women are having fewer babies later in life or not at all, the proportion being entirely related to whether the women are living in poverty or not, and have access to education, work and political representation or not. In the U.S. for instance, we have a lot of extremists extolling the virtues of producing babies and trying to change laws, but we also have a much greater number of women who are contributing to a declining birth rate, a declining teen pregnancy rate, etc.
But a declining birth rate isn't population control. What I mean is, adopting a (world-wide) method of controlling the birth of children to prevent our numbers from furthur damaging and threatening the planet. It might work, but it won't happen (not legally, anyway). If population figures drop naturally or passively, well, that might just be the happy medium.


We do have other predators besides ourselves, chiefly those bacteria and viruses that the health watchdogs are saying will shortly kill millions of us. We are also subject to natural disasters, such as the tsuanami. Various insects and other creatures having massive population growth can endanger human populations, sometimes on a broad scale. Non-native species introduced into areas have wiped out native animal and plant species, though not, obviously, on the scale with which we've deliberately or accidentally caused extinctions. Extinctions happen all the time in nature -- the problem is we've created too many of them too fast. But there are also millions of people who work very hard to stop that problem, and saying they are rooted in the negative seems a bit unfair.

There are a lot of nasty people in the world. There are a lot of hurting people in the world. But there are an awful lot of good people in the world too, many of them dealing with the weight of world-wide problems they can't control and can do little to fix.
Ten million dead humans sounds like a lot but it isn't much help to a planet suffering under the burden of six billion more. As for us, we're the archetypal non-native species. It isn't enough for us to simply be content with where we live, we have to explore every inch of this planet. This isn't really a bad thing until we start displacing native species' because we clash with them. Though they've stopped for the most part, shark hunts are a prime example of this. We move into their territory, piss them off, and when one of us gets snatched we retaliate by attempting to purge their species. Same thing happened with bears, lions, and any other large carnivores that could attack a human, even if they didn't intend to eat us. We've also pursued species extinction actively. Look at the whale-slaughter of the 19th century. Oil lamps in the streets certainly helped to dissuade muggings and murders but was it worth the cost? Thankfully our ingenuity overcame this problem and the whales are still around.

At the start I said we're a "generally negative species". To clarify this, I didn't mean we're all brooding, murderous fiends. What I meant (or maybe just mean now as a result of all this stimuli) is that, were it possible to sum up the positivity and negativity of our species as a whole (a strange concept but bear with me), the total would come out on the negative side. I don't think, as a whole, we're as "good" as we could or should be.


No, the media plays us for what we fear. If they can scare us, we'll watch the news to try and get information, not because it's familiar or titilating but because we're anxious. They ignore the murder in the Chicago ghetto, because people don't really care about a murder in the ghetto, (unless perhaps they live there.) They play up the murder in the Wal Mart because people realize that such a murder might randomly happen to them, because it scares them. Crime happening to white people or performed by white people in the States or Canada gets more attention because the white majority fears it may happen to them. In an age where all the cop shows are struggling to come up with plots because the murder rates are dropping, we have loads of people terrified about violence and believing we live in a more violent and self-destructive world because the news media paints a portrait that contradicts reality.
I don't see the fear thing, but maybe that's just me. I don't seek out things that frighten me because I don't like to be frightened. This is the reason I don't watch the news. I know it's blown out of proportion but I'm not hooked on the carnage because it's possible I might be shot while at a department store. Whenever I hear people talking about such events as murder, it's always with a touch of arrogance because "well, what are the odds it'll happen to me?". If they were truly afraid of being attacked in broad daylight in a public venue, why would they still go to that place? Are they seeking out their own destruction? I don't think so. I think the reason the news is the way it is is because we like to see bad stuff happen to other people. I don't mean everyone craves blood, I mean as a whole we feel fine sitting in our living rooms watching this stuff on T.V. because it's removed from us.


You said we were all negative, violent-loving and acting, murderous monsters, is what you said.
Where :confused: ?


(You may be interested in a thread in Scott Bakker's forum called "Are We Doomed" where we talked about this stuff.)
I'll check it out, thanks!


As I understand biology, just about any species will continue to expand to the point of consuming it's resources if it can. I don't think this is a unique trait of humans at all. Fortunately, as the Ear Collector said, nature tends to balance things out.
But we're the only one's who can fight natures influence and work against her, seemingly.


What's interesting in a lot of speculative fiction (at the risk of steering this thread back to writing)...
Gods forbid :) .


...is that we consider human-like species that embobdy similar survival strategies, but ones that aren't necessarily the same. In these stories we amplify certain characteristics we see in ourselves and draw out logical conclusions. I believe this is the reason for a lot of the archetypes in the folktales of different cultures. Evil characters are often the dark "trolls who live under the bridge." Their behaviour is more instinctual, and less innovative. Characters or species that embody innovation tend to come across as good. How many heroes learn a lesson before the end of the story?
Good point. I'd say this is the reason for every archetype in fiction and mythology. It's not that we base all of these fantasy races on facets of our own collective personality, it's that we can't picture it any other way. A story written from the perspective of an elf or an alien is, in actuality, a human looking through elf or alien eyes (which we of course invented anyway). We have only ourselves to form these assumptions on. Until we actually meet up with some aliens, we can only create a limited number of variations of ourselves (I bet alien literature will be so different from ours it'll blow all our minds :) ).


If humans encounter another intelligent species that we would presumably be in competition with for resources necessary for our survival, would armed conflict be inevitable?
I think it's inevitable. To furthur my point, we like the violence. Of course, if they come in peace we'll respond with peace but, given enough time, I think any alliance will crumble. Even should we be given a new planet full of resources for ourselves, meaning we need take none from the aliens, I'm sure we'd find something else to fight about.

Pluvious
April 28th, 2005, 02:45 PM
I think we've made progress in the last couple of centuries but we've got a long way to go. Unfortunately, the majority of humanity doesn't have enough foresight to see that we could do things more positively as a species. We are too busy with surviving or getting what we want as individuals.

Zanibar, I sympathesize and agree with you in general. But some of your points were a bit inexact. Unfortunately, as we humans are prone to do, people decided to pick at these inconsistencies instead of looking at the big picture. To me the biggest problem with humans is that we think but we don't think enough. Some people do but most don't. This may be partly that we aren't evolved enough yet mentally (for some) but a lot of it is the teachings of the particular society.

Here are some things that don't make sense to me (that we as humans have done or tend to do).

1. We choose mates often based upon physical attraction as opposed to intelligence. That's fine for the way it is now and the past but what about the future? Shouldn't we be attempting to produce intelligenct children to insure the survival of our species (not to mention our moral/spiritual development)? But we don't value intelligence nearly as much as beauty. That seems strange to me. Some people do of course but not the majority. And yes I know beauty and health can sometimes go together but that isn't a conscious choice or a survival choice by people.

2. Why do we maintain governments that are corrupt or ineffective? Maintaining a government that is ineffecual is illogical. Politicians are often corrupt and not serving the people. Why do we allow this? Why, as a species, can we not change when it is in our best interests? Until we can do this we cannot look upon ourselves in a truly positive light. Too much close-mindedness.

3. Most people still live and act in a kind of "alpha-state" of judgements and needs. Our minds tell us to use our brain to make comparisons and our body has needs. We need to do this to survive. But the majority havn't learned that to reach a more sophisticated level of being may mean that "judgements and needs" aren't as important. Its all very complicated until you start to actually understand. I just feel like people aren't ready yet. Not by a long shot. Its all very sad to me.


Of course, as some have said it may be just nature at work. But we do have the ability to reason and change ourselves. That seems like a great gift to me. I don't want to waste it.