Pack your bags, humans!

Vaqar Ahmed believes our chances are quite dismal here on Planet Earth

Pack your bags, humans!
In a lecture delivered last year at the Stramus science festival in Trondheim, Norway, the eminent astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said it was crucial to establish colonies on Mars and the Moon, and take a Noah’s Ark of plants, animals, fungi and insects to start creating a new world.

Extinction of life on the planet due to a nuclear war, famine, environmental degradation, disease or a strike by a large meteor is imminent. Take your pick; my money is on a nuclear war.

As for the timeframe for such an apocalyptic event, Hawking predicts, “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.”

But why is all the human activity that is leading the Earth to its extinction continuing?

The answer in simple language is: The human race is just plain dumb. Unfortunately, most humans think to the contrary, which makes any improvement in their intellect impossible. Such is their arrogance that since they are now able to kill a lion, write poetry and novels, see deep into the galaxies, take a joyride to the moon, and live for longer, they think that they are the smartest blokes in the Universe. The fact that with the weapons that they have created, they can wipe out all life in a few minutes is just another feather in the dunce’s cap.

Stephen Hawking has warned us about it, among others

So how to deal with this headlong slide into self-destruction? The answers lie in the study of the source of all stupidity: that slimy mess called the brain. We are quite content to devour brain masala without realising that we are actually eating up the brain of an animal that is much better adapted for survival than us humans. Unlike humans, animals are peaceful and well adapted to the planet. When they kill, it is for food or to ward off a predator.

We humans, putatively created in the image of God, consider ourselves the most intelligent creature to walk the Earth. But what is the definition of this thing called “intelligence”, for which we humans pride ourselves?

If you look up a dictionary, you will get the following answer:

“Intelligence. Noun. The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”

Most humans, idiots are they are, will claim that by this definition we are a very intelligent species. After all, we started with living in caves and hunting with stones and look where we are now? We rapidly applied the knowledge and skills that we learn and are now living in comfortable settings, prolonging our lives, eating well and creating wonderful gadgets.
We are quite content to devour brain masala without realising that we are actually eating up the brain of an animal that is much better adapted for survival than us humans

But think about this carefully. If the success of a species is its ability to adapt to the setting in which it lives, in a way that gives it a greater chance of survival, human activity does not fit the definition of ‘intelligent’. We have infinite wants (not needs) for material goods that result in us denuding the planet of its resources very rapidly. Talk of cutting the branch on which one sits. If that is not bad enough we are eternally suspicious of the “other”, thus waging war on the flimsiest and most irrational of grounds like faith, colour and race. We don’t even trust our blood links, as demonstrated by the large number of matricides, patricides and fratricides that take place routinely. Not satisfied with killing “others”, we also have the unique distinction of killing ourselves by the act of suicide.

The fact is that contrary to appearance, we are the least well adapted of the life-forms on planet Earth. For starters, our evolution as humans has left us with a lot of shame at still having most of the characteristics of “lower” life forms like animals. Unlike animals, we are ashamed of our need to defecate and fornicate. Why, otherwise, would these two most natural (and necessary) of human functions be the ones most hidden from public view?

On the other hand, activities that are least suited to our survival like climbing that rather nasty piece of rock called K2 or Mount Everest, or walking to freezing cold areas like the North Pole, are considered heroic! Recently, a nine-year old girl was in the news for the feat of climbing a 6,000-metre peak. Only a human would subject their offspring to such dangers for no rational purpose.

Scientists warn that the human capacity for terrifying violence might mean our end as a species. Pictured here - Aleppo, Syria

Now that we are close to destroying the planet we are living on, we are planning on migrating to other much less hospitable homes like the Moon or Mars. Maybe we will see a new apartheid system in which the poor majority will be transported to the desolate moon and the powerful and privileged will occupy a much more sparsely and thus comfortably populated Earth.

Self-knowledge is the starting point of any wisdom and humans are very reluctant to confront the primitive creature trapped inside their modern brain. Humans are the result of a bizarre mismatch of primitive instincts of survival. As a compensation for a body that is highly susceptible to the vagaries of weather and other difficult physical conditions of the planet, we get an overdeveloped brain that helps us to survive.

Developed over centuries of adaptations, the improvement in human behavior is very difficult. The answers lie not in sociology, economics or regular psychology but through understanding how the brain developed in the process of evolution. After a careful examination of the human brain, the only cure for our propensity for destruction may well be to deaden or remove the parts of our brain that are responsible for, say, violent behaviour, or the constant need for material objects. It does not bode well that currently, such biological engineering is considered unethical and almost a taboo.

Humans are running out of time. The time may arrive soon when one of the three greatest malaises threatening the existence of the humans – nuclear weapons, overpopulation and the destruction of the Earth’s resources – will overtake any attempt at reforming our destructive brain.

Looking at the world around us today, we may have already reached the point of no return. Have a good day, while it lasts.