archive: Re: SETI The Drake Equation - Probability One

Re: SETI The Drake Equation - Probability One
Wed, 19 May 1999 23:18:30 EDT

In a message dated 5/19/99 12:52:47 PM Eastern Daylight Time,

> John--
> Thanks for the constructive reply. It has stimulated interesting thoughts!

Hehe, always enjoy a good philosophical discussion. And glad to see the seti
list come back to the intellectual pursuits it used to have before the hoax!.

> >All animals, even humans, must respect the power of Darwin's evolutionary
> >theory.
> Agreed.
> >Intelligence seems to have evolved as a survival strategy, to avoid
> becoming >food.
> Agreed.
> >Intelligence itself, and the creation of tools, seems to have negated the
> >neccessity of biological adaptation.
> Agreed. You said it much better than I did.
> >Now we can create nearly unlimited
> >physical and intellectual structures to magnify our abilities.
> Yes. Where our difference lies, I suspect, is in our confidence in
> the continuation of the evolution of such structures.
> Your argument (as I see it) is that there is an in-built imperative
> to continue this adaptation--a kind of technological teleology.
> I appreciate this position, but I can't help looking at the stagnation
> that persisted for centuries in many cultures here on earth.
> The following points, are , of course, massive generalizations,
> but here goes.
> I would argue that most cultures seem to reach a level of appropriate
> technology and then cease further adaptation. That is, if the
> technology satisfies most subsistence needs, many cultures
> stagnate--especially those blessed with mild climates and fertile soils.

This sounds perfectly logical. I agree completely.

> In some cases, such cultures may stimulate scientific inquiry (ancient
> Greece, for example). But more often, development may take a
> more mystical route, where the culture elaborates an increasingly
> philosophically complex universe, usually at the expense of technological
> advancement (for example, the Pacific Islands of pre-Western contact).

Yes, I see this completely. Mysticism prevails quite often. Only the
enlightenment put the scientific method in it's rightful place.

> On earth, Western civilization is characterized by a desire to subjugate
> the environment.

I don't think the subjugation is the goal, but a result of seeking comfort
and profit.

> Its notions of progress and its desire to dominate
> other cultures arise in large part from certain interpretations of
> Judaeo-Christian philosophy.

I think culture subjugation happens everywhere, for instance the Greeks and
Romans had slaves, as did the Africans and some Asians.

> In other words, is the catalysing spark that moves civilization from
> appropriate technology to an aggressive, questing technology, a
> much more rare thing than we might imagine? Or is it, as you say, John,
> an inevitability of evolutionary pressure?
> I believe the former, but I hope for the latter.
> Brian

Hmmm. I guess I don't know. It is very difficult to imagine when electronic
communication technology would have evolved if it didn't happen in "western
civilization". Most of the difficulty arises in my mind because the world now
seems to have only one civilization, and we are all connected by it. There
isn't another one to compare it to. Perhaps China, which had 4000 years or
so, and didn't invent electronics.

In case anyone thinks this is off topic, sorry. But I think we are evaluating
the philosophy behind one of the factors of the Drake equation.

John Marcus.