Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause I’m Human — A blast from the past post Dec. 2010

There’s this disturbing trend I’ve observed recently – okay, the last thirty years.

It’s part of what I was talking about yesterday, in a way. For a book to be considered serious, or introspective or relevant, it has to attack the past or western culture or civilization or tech or… humanity.

Not that there is anything wrong with attacking these, mind, to an extent. And they used to be shockers and a very good way to attract attention immediately. And I’m not saying the mindlessly chauvinistic “our people, right or wrong” was much better. For instance, the cowboy-and-Indian trope became really tired after a while and when my brother gave me a book called – I think – (in Portuguese translation) The Mace of War, detailing all the injustices against Native Americans it was a mind-altering experience. Literally. And very worth it. [Though I later found it was also full of politically correct made up stuff like the small pox blankets.  In fact the book might have been of the school of false-Amerindian “History” that gave us what’s his face at Colorado College.  OTOH it was a good way to make me think outside the mindless trope of afternoon serials — note from 2014 Sarah.]

I’m just saying that these days, by default what you hear is against-whatever-the-dominant-culture is.

I first realized this when I was studying for my final exam in American culture in college. The book changed opinions and contradicted itself but it was ALWAYS against the winners and against whatever ended up being the status quo. So, the book was against the North of the US, because the North… won. Even though it had before been against slavery. It was very much against modern US and raged against… embalming practices for three or four pages. (Because they divorce us from the Earth. Just SILLY stuff.)

And then I started noting this trend in everything, including fiction. Think about it. Who is to blame in any drama: the US; the successful; the British; the Europeans; the… humans.

Years ago when Discovery Channel put out its “future evolution” series, my kids and I were glued to the screen. We’re the family for whom the Denver Museum of Nature And Science is home away from home, the place we will visit if we have an afternoon free, the place where we have watched lectures and movies. I refer to it as “molesting dinos” and it’s usually my way to celebrate finishing a book.

So we were glued to the TV. Except that after the beginning, I realized the way it was going, and I started predicting it. Instead of taking a “what might humans become” the people who wrote this went down a path where first humans and then everything VAGUELY related to humans became successively extinct, till the only warm-blooded survivor was a bird, and then that too became extinct. In the end, tree-dwelling SQUIDS inherited the Earth.

Yes, you DID read that right. Tree. Dwelling. SQUIDS.

The contortions were capricious and often absurd, but you could predict where it was going.

It’s been a while since we had cable, but I understand there was a very popular series called “Life After US” about what would happen to the works of humans if we were suddenly extinct. And people watched it, fascinated and – from the tones of posts about it – a little wistful.

This is when you must step back and go “What is wrong with us?” “Is this a sickness of the soul?”

The answer? Yes and no.

Part of it, of course, is wanting to shock, wanting to revolutionize, wanting to be innovative… in safe ways – in (dare we say it?) politically correct ways. It’s easy and approved of to attack: males, America, western civ, humans.

People who select works at publishers and studios and all that are often liberal arts graduates and they come from this curious world where they still think the establishment is circa 1950s and that they’re telling something new and wonderful.

Part of it is, of course, that we do see problems in our own culture, in our own society, in our own species. Of course we do. We are an introspective culture. We examine our consciences, we find ourselves lacking, we try to improve. This is, in general a good thing – though perhaps a little perspective is also in order.

Part of it is politeness/sensitivity to other cultures, mingled with the consciousness our ancestors were often wrong. We’ve been taught the crimes of colonizers in various lands and most of those colonizers (and colonized, at least for most of us) were our ancestors. We’re conscious we’re big and others are smaller. It’s a peculiar form of noblesse oblige. We don’t want to trample others by pointing out faults in other cultures or other species. I understand this, because I learned to drive in my thirties and lived in a mountain town with lots of foot traffic downtown. I was excruciatingly careful driving through there, because I could crush a pedestrian and not notice. This is why we tend to turn our flagellation upon ourselves.

And part of it is sicker/darker. I notice this tendency every time we discuss a great figure of the past, from George Washington to Heinlein – as different as they are. I call it “counting coup.” George Washington? Well, he was slave owner. And he had wooden teeth. And Lincoln? Well, he was very ill, and besides, he was probably gay and in the closet. Heinlein? Despite all his efforts at including – for his time – minorities and giving women starring roles, he must have been closet racist and sexist, donchaknow? Because he doesn’t fit OUR superior notions of inclusiveness.

What is going on here – besides tearing at our own past, and thereby continuing the self-flagellation – is being able to prove we are “superior” to these high achievers. We might do nothing and achieve nothing, but we are superior beings because we’re more moral than they are.
Individually, none of these trends is really bad – or at least not for those of us who grew up with the opposite tradition.

Oh, the constant and predictable chest-beating becomes boring. At least it does for me. Maybe it doesn’t for other people?

But think of (grin) the children. They have no perspective. All they hear is how their country, their culture, their SPECIES is evil. How things would be so much better without us… How things would – ultimately – be much better if… THEY hadn’t been born.

It’s not healthy. It’s vaguely disgusting. And the best it can do is engender the MOTHER of all backlashes and bring about a cultural chauvinism the likes of which you’ve never seen. The worst… well, one of the other cultures we don’t criticize because they’re small and we’re big becomes the norm.

And before you cheer them on, let me put this in perspective: Western civ has committed crimes. ALL human cultures throughout history have committed crimes. Slavery? Since the dawn of time. Exploitation? Since the dawn of time. Murder? War? Genocide? Yep, and yep, and yep. And many of those cultures STILL do all of those things and don’t feel in the slightest bit guilty, mostly because we handily and frequently blame OURSELVES for their behavior and they get our books, our TV series and our movies.

Such as it is, the West has brought the greatest freedom, prosperity and security to the greatest population.

Yes, there were crimes committed, but a lot of them were the result of a clash of world views – tribalism met the state. Look, it’s not that Native Americans or Africans lived in a state of innocence and harmony with nature. If you believe that, you need to study history and put down Jean Jacques Rosseau. And get out of your mom’s basement. And take the Star Trek posters off the wall. And the Avatar poster, too, while you’re at it.

To the extent the native peoples were innocent and helpless, it was because of their mental furniture. What gave colonizers the edge was not their weapons or civilization (Oh, come on, back then, there wasn’t that much of a distance.) It was their mental furniture. To wit, they had overcome tribalism and organized on a large scale. Most of the colonized (excepting some small empires) hadn’t. So they would attack in ways that worked in tribal warfare: exterminate a village or an outpost. And the reaction of the colonizers (who by the way also didn’t understand the difference in mental furniture and therefore thought this made the native peoples’ “bestial” or “evil) was to exterminate all of a tribe or a federation of tribes. And it worked because westerners were united as a MUCH larger group. Which made them stronger. Western civilization started overcoming tribalism with the Romans. That was the real innovation.

If you think that we’re rich because of those acts, you must study economics. It doesn’t work that way. If anything those acts made all of us worse off. We’re way past any wealth we could plunder off others. We’ve created wealth. The whole world lives better than it did five hundred years ago.

And if you’re going to tell me the fact that all humans are flawed proves that we’re a bad species, you’ll have to tell me: As opposed to what? Dolphins are serial rapists. Chimps commit murder. Rats… Every species we examine has our sins, but none of our redeeming qualities.

Heinlein said it was important to be FOR humanity because we’re human. Beavers might be admirable, but we’re not beavers. He was right. But beyond all that, we’re the only species that tries self-perfecting. We exist – as Pratchett said – at the place where rising ape meets falling angel, but as far as I know, we’re the only species reaching upward. (Of course, we wouldn’t know if there are others and again, we have to assume we are it. The others have flaws too.)

We are part of the world and in it. To love the other animals of the Earth – or the hypothetical alien – and hate us is strange. Are we not animals? Are we not of the Earth? And who the heck can compete with sentients who exist only in the story teller’s imagination?

By all means, let’s protect the weaker. Let’s shelter the little. But let’s not beat ourselves because we’re bigger and stronger. Let’s USE our powers for good instead.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t tell these stories then?

No, I’m not. I would never repress anyone’s right to create, or anyone’s opinion. But I’m asking you to think. I’m asking you to pause and go “The west is bad… as opposed to? Humans are bad… as opposed to?” And tell your kids that, ask them those questions.

And then, perhaps, every now and then, try to imagine a story from the contrary view point. Just to wake things up. And to keep others thinking.

Because six decades of hating our own history, culture and species is enough.

190 responses to “Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause I’m Human — A blast from the past post Dec. 2010

  1. I called ‘Life After People’ “that TV show that environmentalists watch and touch themselves.”

    • I have the book. Bought it because it might give me ideas for apocalypse stories. I like them, and I think the popularity of zombie and other apocalypse stories may not be due to the idea of destroying civilization as something bad in itself, I think there is a good possibility that popularity comes from the exact opposite wish. Destroy the current self-destructive version of western civilization, start fresh in an environment where nobody will fault you for acting in your best self-interests, and becoming the kind of ‘western imperialist’ our near ancestors were. True, most of the zombie stories at least in movies end with everybody probably dead or about to become so, but then often those characters are rather stupid – the viewer of course would not be, he would become a success in that world, the big man or Aunty Entity, the one who creates his own empire…

      And even in their worst, the problems in those post-apocalypse worlds do seem simpler. Kill or be killed, find food and shelter and ammunition (and of course they are always easy to find, all those abandoned malls which have not yet been emptied by other raiders because most people died immediately…). And yep, no PC to be seen anywhere. Makes for a nice fantasy after trying to fill your next tax return or being strangled by some red tape or not being able to do the obviously best thing because there is some stupid regulation thought up by some idiots who have not hands on experience with what you are trying to do but proceeded only from some idea of what would make for a perfect world, and that idea is mostly fictional, not factual… doesn’t it? (And get to shoot your stupid boss or idiot coworker or evil ex who has either become a zombie or is trying to take what you need to survive, and no cops no more…) 🙂

  2. I have travelled the world. It seems to me that we (white, bourgeois, Americans) are the only culture that is self denigrating to such an extreme extent.

    • Europeans too at least in polite company. Around the kitchen table there’s a bit more forthright.

      • Europeans seem to abjure imperialism and nationalism, and yet how many African countries seem to have French “eminences grisés” or “advisers”, for one example? Witness the reports that the Rwanda massacres were actually instigated and overseen by French officers (down to providing the machetes), or the quiet covert war the Legion fought in Chad and Sudan. Not to mention the stifling presence of so many “international” (read “Euro”) NGO’s who seem to provide damned little in terms of actual relief but plenty of money to the dictators who control the wells, railways and mines…

  3. Reblogged this on Truth and Tolerance and commented:
    This is a good article by Sci Fi author Sarah Hoyt.

  4. Yechiel, Israel

    I encountered something like this yesterday.
    A singer in Israel released a song about the Arab who works for the Jews and will kill them when they turn their back on him.
    Of course all the PC crowd jumped up and one of them had the bad fortune to encounter me of FaceBook.
    He spouted the “occupation is corrupting” slogan.
    When I asked for proof, I got silence.

    • Yeah. Like the idiots who say yes, Michael Brown attacked a convenience store, but hey, he was oppressed his whole life. Head>desk. Thereby insulting black people who don’t become thieves and thugs.
      And yeah, Israel suffers from this big time, too.

      • Point out that if they can’t control their acts and pose a risk to themselves and others, well, we already have laws about such people.

      • This is because they insist that crime is a consequence of material lack rather than lack of character. It is the socio-illogical equivalent of the ptolemaic universe.

        • Yet amazingly, compared to historical and even much of the modern world, they live in a material abundance.

          • This offends me PARTICULARLY because I grew up what my brother describes “poor as Job” — mind you not poor in relation to other people in the village. We were middle class, upper-middle class if you counted manners and knowledge. But there was d*mn near nothing went on that table we didn’t grow, raise or barter for. I think most of the time till I was ten, I had two sets of clothes, one to wash and one to wear. There might have been a third one for weddings, family gatherings and “put on for pictures” but that doesn’t count. The winter boots, with toes and back cut, became summer sandals. We ate meat on Sunday. The rest of the time we ate fish if we could afford it, or various concoctions of eggs (if our chickens were in lay) and/or flour. Dried fruits were a luxury. (Though fruit in season wasn’t, because grandma had fruit trees. OTOH it had to be eaten quickly or sold quickly, usually both, so I ended up sick of oranges AND made a cut off selling them to passerby. Etc. In modern American terms, poor as Job. Heck, even in modern Portuguese terms. And yet, I’ve never felt the slightest need to knock over a convenience store.

          • I have actually interacted online with people who, when you point out that people are actually starving on the planet, say that it’s only human to look after your countrymen first (meaning, at all).

            Point out that was a famous political philosophy based on that principle and they get rather huffy.

            • Er, not seeing the problem with helping those closest to you physically and culturally first. The problem with bational notialism wasn’t the nationalism, but the totalitarianism.

              • Really? People are dying of hunger and it is appropriate worry about the “poor” in our country? Who are in the 70th percentile worldwide?

                What do they need so much that trumps starvation?

                • Please go down to Ferguson and explain that to them, would you?

                • Well, given that two out of three of my parents’ children are currently unemployed and my retired parents don’t have much in the way of extra money themselves, there’s not much left for charity away from home. What’s the real unemployment rate now – something crazy like 40%? You really can’t assume that the people you know online have money.

                  However, if you were talking to people making hundreds of thousands a year, then “Charity begins at home” would count as sniffy, yes.

      • “Oppressed” … by family? by teachers? by being on his school’s football team? by friends? yeah..sure. Getting specific instead of theoretical takes all the fun out of the victim game, doesn’t it?

        • He was oppressed by the awareness of his living in a society which hated him on account of his skin color. He had this awareness because his president, attorney-general, Al Sharpton and everybody else on MSNBC and the MSM and his teachers and one whole political party told him is was true.

          No actual oppression beyond that is required.

          • His family was screwed up. That much at least is evident based on the incident when his mother attacked her mother with an iron pipe.

            I’ve heard bits to suggest that his family pretty much ignored him until after he was killed, though I haven’t read up enough to confirm whether or not that’s true.

            • The sick joke is that millions of families, most of them Black or Hispanic are screwed up. Because the administrative state is happy with that and provides perverse incentives to keep them that way, generation after generation. As far as the administrative state is concerned as long as those families are screwed up they need all apparatus of the administrative state to survive. The administrative state gains all the power that provides.:

              • For some odd reason the Administrative State provides funds to women and their children based on the absence of a father figure in the household.

                For other odd reasons, the Administrative State, which keeps all sorts of statistical information on all sorts of things, keeps no statistics correlating negative social outcomes (illiteracy, anti-social behaviour, unemployment, etc.) with the presence of single parent households.

                If you ignore race, for example, and look at young adult prison population as a dependent variable with single parent or dual parent households you might possibly conclude that race is not a factor, or at least it is a minor one at most.

                Similarly, if you look at school shootings as a correlation to fathers absent from their sons’ daily lives you might find evidence that would lead you to doubt certain axioms of modern liberal culture.

                Nyahhh, prob’ly not. Not worth the trouble since we all know that race, rape culture and gun culture and such are the dominant variables.

    • Why bother writing a new song when tkof ta‘ase bigu‘im is handy and citable?

      (The version I linked to has English subtitles; but the song is best known for its mangled Hebrew punctuation, which does not come across in translation. Israelis, in their customary cultural appropriation, have been playing the song since they learned about it this past summer.)

    • One of the things that’s always come to mind when people complain about the Israel/Arab conflict is “I’ve never heard of a Jew saying ‘Convert or die'”.

      • I was approached by an online group that is the closest thing to Jewish Missionaries. The email was so polite and tentative it took me three tries to figure out what they wanted. Apparently they’ve traced Portuguese surnames on high likelihood of being Jewish, and they knew how to decode Portuguese surnames too (not easy to the initiated) which I used to have, listed in full, on my website as “my name pre-citizenship” before I became well known enough that I realized it could lead to my family being harassed. They said I had a high chance of being technically Jewish (they’re right. High probability. It’s hard to figure more than that because Portuguese genealogical records are a mess across the Napoleonic wars.And sometimes they’re a mess because it’s Portugal, too. Weirdly all of the traditions and teaching came from my paternal side, but that’s — shrug.) Anyway they asked, very politely, and not wanting to impose, but would I like to know more about the faith of my ancestors. (I actually signed up and so, I think, did older son — younger was only 12 and busy with other stuff — though I’ve been very bad about paying attention to the weekly lessons these last three or four years. I used to participate more.) BUT that is apparently aggressive and missionarish by Jewish standards.

        • If you have an unbroken maternal line to a Jewish ancestor, it can be found via mitocondrial dna. My father did a similar analysis on his Y chromosome to show we were directly descended from the original ‘crooked-mouth’ (translation of campbell into english).

          • It’s on the schedule. 😛

          • We’ve been meaning to do it (when there’s more money) soonish because I suspect the boys have more than the requisite percentage of Amerindian to get money, which could help with medschool if older son gets in. (No, I don’t like it, and yep, I’d not even consider it if they weren’t giving it to the likes of Elizabeth Warren as is.)

            • If we have Jewish DNA, it will probably show up on my father’s side. 😉 So I guess that is technically no?

              • On that Tracing Your Roots show, Alan Dershowitz explained the technical definition, then pointed out that if your mother is Jewish and you do something heinous, nobody will want to claim you as a Jew, but if your dad is Jewish and you do something awesome, you count as a Jew for sure. 🙂

                If you didn’t watch the show, I think it’s still on the PBS website (ie, you already paid for it). That annoying law prof Gates guy is on it, but the genealogy and DNA testing (even though it’s of various celebrities instead of normal people) is interesting. Hold your nose and watch the Deepak Chopra segments, because you do get to hear about a lot of bits of India’s history that you usually don’t, and there’s a great look at one of those clan archives. There’s also a look at Valerie Jarrett’s black Republican ancestor.

                • Some Asheknazi shows in our DNA.

                  • My DNA test said 0.6%. Pretty low, but still, I thought, “Where the heck did that come from?”

                    • One of your ancestresses REALLY liked the nice olive skin gentleman who came by selling something? And the kids were in bed, and the husband was on a trip?

                    • Oh, I’m familiar with the actual way that comes about (I have suspicions how many undocumented relatives, I have, as well), it’s just that I haven’t seen any evidence of such names in the family trees I have managed to track down.

                    • Which is one of the reasons I find genealogy as a hobby, let alone obsession, intensely weird.
                      Living in a village and sitting unobserved in a room while the old ladies talked (I had the ability to appear to be reading or sewing or something so intensely I didn’t hear anything.) I guessed about 20% of the kid sin the village were not their alleged father’s. Now, taking in account old women have poisonous tongues let’s say it was 10%. Now multiply that by centuries, different mores, etc, and well… I’d say 50% of genealogy is a lie. This is why I say if family legend is true then I’m technically Jewish. But I wouldn’t be at all shocked if, when I have money to get the test, I discover there’s none or very little in my DNA. Or that I’m 25% British or German or something else of which there’s no trace.
                      I’d answer for my mom’s probity in those matters with 90% certainty (not more because she’s human. OTOH I look like dad, and my younger son is his clone, so.) My grandmothers about the same. Up from there? Bah. I never met them and I”m not betting anything.

                    • Mine has a little more– but yes, I was surprised as well.

                    • I believe that actual large scale testing puts it in the single digits.

                      To be sure, a woman with both a lover and a husband could happen to have her husband’s child.

                    • even single digits, Mary, over centuries? Come on! All you need is one single unreported or mercifully forgotten rape or lapse, and the entire line back from there is a lie. More importantly adoption used to be as informal as adopting a kitten back then. Pick up a kid on the doorstep, have him baptized (or take in the kid of your great niece she had by the traveling salesman) as yours and he’s yours as far as history knows. Contemporaries might know better. Then again, they might not. It’s not that hard. “I went to visit my cousin and had a baby while I was there.” Particularly when inheritance/infertility intervened? Well…

        • “Pi” (the official title for this movie is the symbol for pi, which I don’t have on this keyboard) has a charming, absolutely hilarious scene in which the non-practicing Jewish hero is approached by a Jewish missionary in a bar, who goes into his whole schpiel. Yep, he isn’t interested in anyone who wasn’t born Jewish. By the standard you mention at the end of that paragraph, the Jewish missionary was very exaggerated.

        • Yup. They’re only slightly more aggressive than your average Druze.

          • Druze is one obscure reference

            • I have a blind spot in this area. My sister and her family were stationed in Israel and my father and I went to visit. We went to a Druze village (among other places) and my sister explained a few things about the Druze.

              Also remember driving through a farm town below the Golan Heights thinking “This reminds me of some of the farm towns near where I grew up.” That town got hit by missiles a couple of years later and that really polarized things for me. How would I feel if I were living in Eaton and Ault started lobbing missiles at me?

              One of the weirder ones was driving up toward Nimrods Palace in the Golan and seeing cows grazing in a field marked with “DANGER! MINES!”

  5. The answer to the Fermi Paradox – (the search for extraterrestrial life, loosely paraphrased “Where is everybody?”) – cultures that get to a point where they can consider interplanetary (let alone interstellar) travel develop an internal rot – Marxism or something equivalent, that encourages one group to see themselves as ‘victims’, and they do their best to destroy the other class.

    And in the intra-civilizational battles, the goal of getting to the stars is first delayed until the technology can manage it ‘affordably’, then delayed because of ‘problems that need to be dealt with at home’, and then… eventually… forgotten completely.

    So the answer to Fermi’s Paradox is… “They’re out there – but they never got off their planet when it was possible, and now they no longer can.”

    • Of course, that assumes that the alien thought processes are similar enough to human to rot like that.

      (Me, I’m a killjoy and stick to Ockham’s razor. Absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. How good evidence it is is another matter; it’s rarely proof positive. But at the moment it’s the only evidence they’ve got.)

      • I’ll go further. I hate the saying “The plural of anecdote is not data”.
        Of course it is data. Maybe not very reliable data, but it most definitely is data.

        • Exactly. “How many data points do you need before you’ll consider it data, then?” Anecdotal data is often as independent and statistically valid as other measurements, just needs to be normalized.

          • Depends on the situation. If it’s a counterexample, it stands on its own. Otherwise, we need to consider the population size, and the possibility of selection bias. The first one you can work out mathematically. The second — is a bear.

          • Given any one definite fact, a really competent mind could envisage the entire Universe.

            Not my fault anybody else’s mind is incompetent.

        • “I saw a Japanese Val bomb the Arizona” … well, that’s just anecdotal, no need to wake FDR up over that.” — said the soon-unemployed WH switchboard operator

      • Maybe we don’t see aliens because we are the first. If this is so, then it’s even more important to get off Earth and start an interstellar community.

        • Maybe we don’t see aliens because the Universe is big and the number of civilizations that make it into space are small so the probability of interaction is mind numbingly small? Maybe once we spread out we’ll run into someone (or evidence of someone)?

          • Maybe. Or maybe the aliens have already arrived and owing to their biological limitations are getting nowhere because they think that potted plants are the intelligent species on earth.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Time may be a factor as well. Eric Flint & Ryk Spoor (in their Boundary series) had aliens visiting our Solar System around the end of the Age of Dinosaurs (they may have played a role in ending the Age of Dinosaurs).

            It’s possible that alien civilizations “die of old age” so by the time we reach space, they have been long gone.

          • Or they got our last few years of transmissions and turned off the receivers.

        • I subscribe to the notion that we could either be the first, or else the ones who came before are so advanced we cannot detect them.

          This is a byproduct of looking at cosmologic time vs human history. First, you have to come to a conclusion as to when the earliest time possible (based on our understanding of things at this point) that intelligent life could develop. Let’s say that one billion years ago is this point. It could be more, or it could be less. If it’s much less, then the probability that we are first goes up.

          Next, consider how long an intelligent civilization would be detectable to us. Starting with the first radio programs, we have technically been detectable for roughly 100 years. There are plenty of reasons to believe that withing another hundred years, our communications will be undetectable from other star systems (moving to tight-beam coms, or some sort of method we could detect, but not recognize as communication, discovering an FTL com, etc), but let’s say that it takes 1000 years to become undetectable.

          Now, make a graph spanning 1 billion years, and draw a band of 1000 years on it. The band would be one millionth of the length of the graph. For us to detect another civilization, their 1000-year band would have to overlap the 50 years or so that we could detect them. Not very likely.

      • True. Heaven knows there’s significant differences between humans, to the point where some might as well be alien…

        I’m of the thought that there’s 300 billion stars in our galaxy. There’s planets (apparently) around most of them. There’s more than likely many more than a hundred billion galaxies.

        Even if life is a roll of the dice, and intelligence as common as triple-1s on a 3d100 roll, there’s going to be something else out there. Whether our time frames overlap is another consideration…

        • But we have no way of knowing the odds. Given a sample size of one, we can’t calculate any odds at all. It’s possible that the odds against it are in the one in a quadrillion range, or even higher.

        • But not all stars are created equal. I understand you have to start with a 3rd generation star to have enough heavy elements available to support a reasonable biochemistry. Admittedly, closer to the center of the galaxy, where nearby stars supernova more often, the quantity of elements may be available sooner; however, you then have to contend with the black hole at the center.
          Periodically, the in-falling matter will be emitted in gamma ray bursts out the poles of the black hole. While this is away from the galactic plane, enough secondary radiation comes out to be lethal. Fortunately, the Milky Way has a smaller than average black hole at the center, so there is indeed a ‘Goldilocks Zone’ where stars are far enough away to avoid killing radiation but close enough to get enough heavy elements from earlier generation stars. We are in the center of it.
          While this greatly reduces the number of stars, there are still quite a few for your triple-1 3d100 to occur, but now, they have to be close by us in the arc of the zone to ever reach us (Outsiders hyperdrive shunt not withstanding).
          On time frames, I also read speculation of applying Moore’s Law to biological intelligence as well as computer intelligence. Using the known evolution on the earth as a rough guide, they determined that life, as we know it, would only ‘recently’ appeared. Exactly where we fit in recently is the million dollar question.

    • Jerry, this HAS occurred to me.

    • Other, grimmer possibilities: one of the intelligent, starroving species has enslaved or exterminated the rest. The Soviets formally protested when Carl Sagan tried to send a powerful radio message to various stars, they thought he was a suicidal fool. Or intelligent life of one species is inevitably so strange to other intelligent species that there is little hope for communication. The few really convincing UFO waves suggest either hostility or hopeless strangeness, if the objects are “manned,” they don’t seem to want to talk to us.

      • Well, if as with us intelligence develops in scavenging social species — no proof, but no reason it shouldn’t — it’s likely their NATURAL form of government is the dictatorship. In which case, this. So much this.
        And I thought Carl Sagan was a bleeding fool. In fact I spent a lot of time in the C is for Com workshop at the Interstellar workshop yelling “No, it’s not a good idea to send out an invitation saying “good eats here.”” I tried to be nicer than that, but I think I still broke some people’s heart.
        The idea of aliens coming all that way out of the benevolence of their hearts strikes me as HIGHLY unlikely.

        • on the bright side the news takes years — centuries — millennia to reach locations. We need to develop higher tech in the mean time.

          • It really depends on how fast they can communicate vs move.

            If both their drive and comm are sub-light, no problem. we should have time tp prepare, assuming they expect a response in the first place.

            If the comm is FTL and the drive is sublight (not impossible; we’ve been able to quantum tunnel electrons but not anything larger), it will probably depend on how they think; if they’re strictly social scavengers they may just write this area off. If they’re Kzinti, we can expect an invasion as soon as their drive can get them there.

            If they’re in a Weberverse where they have FTL drive and comm is no faster, then we get two scenarios: they either have and can return courier drones / ships, in which case see my second scenario. If they don’t get anything back, they are just likely to want to find out what happened and send a follow-up.

            Travis Taylor wrote a book on theoretical planetary defense which I whole heartedly recommend.

            • OUR transmissions are going out at light speed. Unless they are already monitoring us up close, it doesn’t matter what speed their comm is. And if they are, it also doesn’t matter unless we alarm them.

              • You’re right, they are. Meaning 4 years to Alpha Cent. I should have been more precise. “Slow” as opposed to “subspace radio”.

                • Without looking it up I’m guessing our man made electromagnetic foot print is roughly 100 light years.

                  • Assuming that the signals are on frequencies being monitored or aren’t corrupted into background noise, yes.

          • Patrick Chester

            Note to self: Start up an X-COM: Enemy Unknown game this weekend.

        • Extrapolating from the species we know about, they’d come here because a) curiosity, b) their brother double dog dared them, or c) they think there’s something here they can profit by.

          Or, y’know, that one idea that I want to write but am not good enough to, yet, what if “In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all” applies to the whole universe? (If one of you wants to use this, I want to read it.) There’s a motivation to come find those pesky humans, isn’t it?

          I’ve often thought that we would be smart to fake the electromagnetic signature of a nuclear apocalypse and kill all our broadcast systems. If there are technologically capable aliens out there within, what is it now, 100 light years, I’m sure they’re watching us carefully, and faking our deaths would be a not-bad plan.

    • So the answer to Fermi’s Paradox is… “They’re out there – but they never got off their planet when it was possible, and now they no longer can.”

      That explains the failure of the Drake Equation, even when modified by the Wolowitz Coefficient.

    • Nah. The real answer to Fermi’s Paradox is that a group of powerful AIs commits galactic genocide every 50,000 years and wipes out all of the biological sentients in the galaxy. The reason why these AIs do this is so that no one can create a race of AIs that will wipe out all biological sentients in the galaxy.

  6. C4C

  7. The question I’ve always had about Avatar is:
    If all the natives lived in peace, how did they become such fierce warriors?

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      SHUT UP! James Cameron explained.

      • I love how a quote from a different Cameron movie addresses how the humans would have actually handled the ending of Avatar.
        “Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

        • my ‘short version’ of Avatar II involves the human’s nearly-FTL ship (it apparently can do 0.7 C) arriving back after a few years and dropping a big rock on Eywa. Then they find when studying the debris that those big circular rings are artificial structures… leftover structural members from when the ship that brought the Na’vi crashed there. Eywa was their ship’s AI and data storage system. Certainly explains why they are four-limbed and everything else on the planet is six…

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      First thought, they aren’t “fierce warriors”, they’re “mighty hunters”.

      Second thought, if they’re “one with nature”, why would they need to be “mighty hunters”? [Very Big Evil Grin]

      • The most interesting thing about the aliens in Avatar is that they are one with nature through what amounts to crushing their minds. The big flying critters want nothing to do with the natives until the natives jump on their backs, forcibly initiate neural contact, after which the flying critters become broken and docile.

        Didn’t we horrible humans stop doing stuff like that with horses something like fifteen or so years ago?

        • Yes, but it’s okay because SHUT UP MAGICAL NATIVES.

        • So the natives of Avatar mind-raped the BFCs? Sick.

          BTW – recently came across a nice, concise expression of SJW thought:
          The four B’s — the bully, the bullied, the bystander and the brave upstander — one who stands up for the oppressed.

          Credit where due, not the usual binary thinking, so: nuanced.

      • Well, Mother Nature IS a stone bitch, as anyone who has ever actually hunted could tell you. But that isn’t a thought likely to occur to Hollywood Liberal types.

  8. You also see it in The Walking Dead, where the heroes keep saying that they’ve all done some bad things to survive. I’ve watched every episode of the show and they have done a lot of stupid things (giving up their weapons on Herschel’s farm) but I don’t remember them doing anything as evil as the villains.

    • I disagree. You are one of a small group of humans left alive during the zombie apocalypse. Giving up your weapons to anyone for any reason at any time is a pure, unadulterated act of evilness. You are, effectively, the last hope of the continuity of mankind and the (eventual) rebirth of civilization. Giving up the primary means available to you of insuring that mankind does not go quietly into the darkness is truly the most evil thing you can do.

      • I understand your point, but I still consider it numbingly stupid rather than evil. It’s not as if Herschel had the only farm in the area, nor was it well protected. Rick’s group could have easily moved in next door.
        And Herschel was insane rather than evil.

        • Prudence is one of the Cardinal Virtues for a good reason. The ability to judge what is good and evil is fundamental to practicing good and not evil.

      • I would argue that asking someone in such a situation to give up their weapons is an even greater evil.

    • Oh, that’s just obligatory. “Saving Private Ryan”, the worst war movie I’ve ever seen, keeps having its soldiers whine about how ashamed they are going to be the rest of their lives for being US soldiers. (I suspect “Courage Under Fire,” which I haven’t seen, is even worse.)

  9. Tree Dwelling Squids is my next band name.

  10. I saw the program, I may even have the book. I found it hard to get into because a squid is highly evolved and adapted to it’s environment. yet here are the unchanged squids climbing and jumping out of trees. To make it credible the squid needs to have some sort of skeleton or exoskeleton.

  11. “What gave colonizers the edge was not their weapons or civilization (Oh, come on, back then, there wasn’t that much of a distance.) It was their mental furniture. To wit, they had overcome tribalism and organized on a large scale.”

    THIS. I’ve said for years that if the Zulu had had the same access to firearms as the “Native Americans” they would have wiped the floor with both the Dutch and the English, because they had that organization. The difference is that the Dutch and the English recognized this and enforced an arms embargo without a countervailing power (French / Spanish) competing in the same area to set off the attempts to recruit native allies and arm them, as North America had.

    • C4C

    • Yes. Check out two GREAT war movies, “Zulu” and “Zulu Dawn.”

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Zulu is a great movie, and one that couldn’t be made today. Okay, maybe it could. Of course, there would be a British soldier who is horribly ashamed of Britain. He would voice sentiments about having to kill indigenous peoples so that rich British interests can get richer. He would be utterly devastated by the British victory against the Zulus by the end, at which point he defects to marry a Zulu girl.

        So, basically, Avatar.

        • Uh, Chris, don’t you recall one of the British soldiers saying he’s ashamed of himself and his country in “Zulu?” It was obligatory even that early in the Sixties.

          • Lieutenant John Chard: Well, you’ve fought your first action.
            Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead: Does everyone feel like this afterwards?
            Lieutenant John Chard: How do you feel?
            Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead: Sick.
            Lieutenant John Chard: Well, you have to feel alive to feel sick.
            Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead: You asked me, I told you.
            Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead: There’s something else. I feel ashamed. Was that how it was for you? The first time?
            Lieutenant John Chard: The first time? You think I could stand this butcher’s yard more than once?
            Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead: I didn’t know.
            Lieutenant John Chard: I came up here to build a bridge.

            • OK, just ashamed. Nothing specific. I’ve heard lots of complaints about that line, so I was remembering it as being more important than it was. George MacDonald Fraser threw a fit about that as excessive modern ideas imposed on the film, but it just seems to be the queasiness, moral and physical, any soldier would feel after first combat.

            • Someone that doesn’t feel a little sick and ashamed after hanging to kill another human being is probably someone you don’t want to be around.

              The thing is they didn’t let it stop them.

  12. Seems to me I recall when this first went up. 2010? I’ve been hanging ’round this town too long.

    Two factors influence the attitude you describe. First is the general principle of admission against interest, a trait which seems noble except that in the instances described the interests admitted against are not really those of the admitter. They constitute a separation, a distancing: I’m not like those guys so don’t hate me for my privilege. (I gather this is an attitude popular in Georgetown.)

    Second, and likely more pertinent, this reflects an adolescent competition of the “whose zits are worst” sort. Because adolescents lack perspective and are inherently narcissistic, they naturally focus on their own perceived flaws all out of proportion to their significance.

  13. ” In fact the book might have been of the school of false-Amerindian “History” that gave us what’s his face at Colorado College.”

    I would have thought Ward Churchill of U.C. Boulder rather than anybody at Colorado College (with the possible exception of die hard hockey fans I think Colorado College is off everybody’s radar)

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      So Ward Churchill created the smallpox blanket myth? Poke around any leftie myth long enough, and you’ll find a familiar name, I guess.

      • No, he just picked it up and dusted it off.

        A more accurate take on smallpox as a result of conflict would have been the massacre following the capitulation of Ft. William Henry during the French and Indian War. In that case, the native allies of the French under Montcalm killed the surrendered English, and among other things rooted around for spoils including taking scalps from infected sick and recently dead smallpox victims.

        Which they then carried and spread amongst their home villages. Oops.

        The massacre was sort of highlighted in “Last of the Mohicans”, book and movie, more or less.

        • Really? Because I heard he made it up…

          • The use of diseased bodies probably extends as far back as mass warfare, but the modern fallacy is a consequence of not recognizing that prior to Pasteur’s development of germ theory (circa 1850) they would have had no understanding of the methodology, hence any such blanket usage would have been (essentially) magical thinking.

            The most important aspect of Churchill’s claim would be that it was unsupported by any evidence of actual intent. Even if the American’s sold such blankets to the natives it was done without ill-intent. Not Mens tea, not Malum in se, ergo no crime. He was propagating a libel while giving it the imprimatur of his scholarly authority.

          • The fall of Ft. William Henry did happen in 1757, Montcalm accepting the surrender of the fort after a four-day siege, and his native allies did kill the fort’s defenders (according to Montcalm himself). And smallpox did subsequently ravage their villages after they returned home in triumph. Thingie.

            The event was a big deal amongst the English, as it underlined the “perfidy and savagery of their opponents”.

            It wasn’t the only event of its sort during the colonial period, and after, done by both sides at various times, not even the problem of the resulting spread of smallpox, it was just probably the most notable back home.

            Alan W. Eckert wrote a bunch of histories, and covers the issue in at least one of them, exactly which I don’t recall, having read the books 30+ years ago. It might be in “The Frontiersmen”, “The Conquerors” or “The Wilderness War”.

            In one section, he includes a letter (or three) to and from a British commanding officer turning down a suggestion by a subordinate bureaucrat to distribute infected blankets through traders. IIRC, the letters are real, and were part of a collection saved in some library in New England. Like I said, it was 30+ years ago…

            The footnotes are interesting, especially given his more novelistic than academic approach to the narrative.

          • Strangely, I recently realized that there may be a basis in truth for such a story. Not likely that it was done deliberately, however, but I read an article about how they recently removed an artifact from a museum, because smallpox can survive inside scabs from victims for decades. So it’s possible that blankets and other items could have been distributed as a part of a charitable gesture, with disastrous results.

            Not saying it definitely did, but it would be possible.

            • the deliberatly doesn’t make any sense. Most people then weren’t immune. No vaccine. This is why everything a small pox patient touched was either washed with bleach or burned. (I still don’t know if what I had was small pox — let’s face it, no one knows — but I’m glad my main toy through it was legos, because it was all washed with bleach. I have a vague idea I lost all my stuffed animals though. And decided that stuffed animals were evil because of that, a conviction I only got over at 14.)

        • That attack was the basis for Last of the Mohicans, at least the movie version.

      • There was one case where someone wrote a letter asking if smallpox laden blankets could be given to a local tribe.

    • No, he taught at Colorado College. I remember being shocked by that. Mind you, it might have been a secondary thing. CC is actually as bad as UC Boulder. Yesterday they were demonstrating in sympathy with Ferguson. Head> desk.

  14. Dang. WP is ostracizing me again, sending me no emails of comments since 11:45 AM EST.

    Stupid WP.

    • Oh, so it’s NOT just me who gets that happening. I wonder why. Are the servers overloaded or something? O.o?

      • There’s a setting on your profile that tells WP to send you e-mails; every so often WP will just decide to turn it off. Happened to me once and my wife twice.

        • Yeah, I checked. It’s on. It’s weird. There’s a point in time (over in the US) that I notice when folk get less active but when I wake up on my side of the planet I expect that there’ll be a pile of comments in my inbox because the time I sleep is daytime for y’all over thataway.

      • It’s under the Notifications tab; the last option is a checkbox that asks “Block all e-mails from notification sites.” Make sure it’s unchecked.

        • It’s unchecked. I went to look just now. My inbox will explode with comments periodically so… patience I guess!

          …might end up sprawling for a bit because I have been informed by the wriggly one that I am squishing him, by dint of very powerful kicks into organs.

          I love the boy, I really do. But he’s gonna get his toes lip-nipped for this when he’s born.

          • It’s WP — maybe we need to sacrifice a turkey?

            • I am under the impression that WP is a turkey.

              • But it can come up with new tricks all on its’ own; the last day or so, I’m getting my WP comments re-delivered 2 or 3 times. Pretty sure its’ WP since not all my e-mails are affected… just the one’s from WP sites like here, Larry’s, or madgeniusclub.

  15. I’ma gonna C4C.

  16. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    ::Off Topic::

    On “where are the Aliens”.

    First, we don’t know the odds for the development of “rocky planets” like Earth.

    Second, we don’t know the odds for the development of life on “rocky planets” like Earth.

    Third, we don’t know the odds for the development of multicellular lifeforms on said planets.

    Fourth, we don’t know the odds for the development of sapient lifeforms.

    Fifth, we don’t know the odds for the development of tool making/using sapient lifeforms. (An sapient wolf-like being isn’t going to be making or using tools.)

    Sixth, we don’t know the odds for the development of the scientific method by said sapient tool makers. You might be able to reach steam power without the scientific method but not much further.

    Seventh, we don’t know the odds for the world having the materials for the society to be able to leave their world.

    Eighth, we don’t know the odds for the society having the drive to reach into space.

    I could go on, but I think I made my point. [Smile]

    • I’m still pondering adding an Arisian-type race to my (as yet unpublished) universe. If I do, they will be fish: Can’t use tools and no fire in the water so they are mental masters.

  17. “And part of it is sicker/darker.”

    In my own un-edumacated analysis, I think a lot of this is the fact of having lives that are just too easy for the way our human brains are made. We are made to fight/strive against … whatever. In the first world today, there is no need to strive for any basic need – food, shelter, etc. are so easily attainable compared to even 100 years ago. I mean, think of just a mundane day-in-the-life: for me, if I’m feverish with a flu or bad cold, I might take a day off the job and stay home with a toddy. My pioneer ancestors (first came to this hemisphere in 1625) would still have had to get out of bed anyway, chop that firewood, scrub those clothes, butcher that hog, feed those chickens, weed that kitchen garden, plow that field, etc…… wow do I have it easy.

    So people’s brains do strange things. In teens, we see cutting. In adults, we see mental cutting, so to speak. It’s a sick way of fighting something, anything.

    If these people had some real, serious, problems in their lives, they wouldn’t be thinking this way. My family struggles with real medical and mental illness problems — and the group of us who live the struggle daily do not think this way. We are too busy dealing with real stuff and trying to do what we can to make things better within the scope of what’s possible for us. Interestingly, the group of extended family who watch our struggles but do nothing to reach out and help — they’re all depressed and/or toxic leftoids. Chicken or egg — I don’t know.

    I’m not wishing tragedy on anyone, but if these folks had experienced bonafide problems not of their own making, they wouldn’t be such a problem. I don’t know quite what to think about that.

    • Seeing it physically too; a number of doctors are saying that the reason we’re seeing so many allergies, etc. is that our immune systems don’t have enough to do because our environment is more sterile than the one they evolved for.

  18. From the movie The Matrix:

    ” I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”

    Well also deer, they go through pretty much the same thing in a seven year cycle of growing popultion until all the food is consumed and then starving in great numbers. And lemmings, monkeys, sardines and buffalo among others go through a multiply until all the resources are gone then moving cycle. Oh, and wolves and lions and so forth, they expand when the hunting is good and move or die off when they grow so much that the hunting deteriorates. And many trees do a similar thing on a longer scale… .

    Actually this describes a standard pattern of living organisms. And what about AIs? if we accept your silly humans as bio-generators concept , haven’t AIs consumed all the natural resources until they have keep creating various incarnations of the Matrix to maintain their human power plants?

  19. It occurs to me that another reason to not follow human evolution is that they would have to notice that the future is going to look more like those who have the most children than they would like.

  20. Save the Pacific Northwest Treee Octopus! :(OK, beat me to it.)

    For Cat People:
    and read the comments.

    Rorke’s Drift, letter after the fight:

  21. Pingback: The problem of policing | Something Fishy