Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Kind of Intelligence Is A Lethal Mutation?

Lethal Mutation?
Regular readers know that several recent series on Ecocosmology Blog have dealt with various concepts of intelligence as well as variations within several "types of intelligence."

For example, in What Kind of Intelligence Is Prescience? and What Kind of Intelligence Is Prescience? - 2 we looked at ancient writings of two well known religions to contemplate intelligent ancient views of environmentalism which seem to be prescient.

In Did Abiotic Intelligence Precede Biotic Intelligence? we contemplated whether or not there are two types of intelligence as well as which type came first.

In the series Putting A Face On Machine Mutation we lament the dearth of peer reviewed papers (compared with those on biological evolution) concerning machine evolution in the context of the evolution of intelligence.

Today we are going to indulge the notion of noted American biologist Ernst Mayr, who unabashedly hypothesized that human intelligence is a lethal mutation which is likely to lead to the extinction of the human species, as well as most other species on the planet Earth.

Let's begin with a debate between astrophysicist Carl Sagan and the American biologist Ernst Mayr; two scientists who saw human intelligence in a different light:
I'LL BEGIN with an interesting debate that took place some years ago between Carl Sagan, the well-known astrophysicist, and Ernst Mayr, the grand old man of American biology. They were debating the possibility of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. And Sagan, speaking from the point of view of an astrophysicist, pointed out that there are innumerable planets just like ours. There is no reason they shouldn't have developed intelligent life. Mayr, from the point of view of a biologist, argued that it's very unlikely that we'll find any. And his reason was, he said, we have exactly one example: Earth. So let's take a look at Earth. And what he basically argued is that intelligence is a kind of lethal mutation ... you're just not going to find intelligent life elsewhere, and you probably won't find it here for very long either because it's just a lethal mutation ... With the environmental crisis, we're now in a situation where we can decide whether Mayr was right or not. If nothing significant is done about it, and pretty quickly, then he will have been correct: human intelligence is indeed a lethal mutation. Maybe some humans will survive, but it will be scattered and nothing like a decent existence, and we'll take a lot of the rest of the living world along with us.

(Human Intelligence and The Environment, Dr. Noam Chomsky, 9/30/10). Dr. Chomsky argues that Dr. Mayr had a good point if we take into consideration our "intelligent" use of the Earth's resources, including producing weapons of mass destruction, like hydrogen bombs and other nuclear weapons that threaten the existence of life on Earth.

Which brings to mind the photo of Dr. Einstein at the top of the post, in as much as it was his intelligence in large part that made weapons of mass destruction and human extinction possible.

The Tenets of Ecocosmology counsel against the improper use of the Earth's environment in any way, urging instead that all species contain some germane bit of information which humanity is likely to need in order to continue to exist.

The Toxins of Power Blog cautions that the source of toxins that do damage to intelligence so as to render it lethal, arise only in the presence of a type of power.

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