Humans are Parasites: These and Other Light Conversational Topics to Enliven Any Dinner Party

By Emily Foss

Governments and religions should fear air pumps and electrical machines. Well, maybe not all governments and religions, but the oppressive ones that seek to stifle the free-thinking among their electorates should. This is because an educated populace tends to be better at recognizing bullshit and are much more vocal with their criticisms when they think their governing body is up to no good. Priestly himself wrote that we should “expose as many ideas as possible to as many minds as possible and the system will ultimately gravitate toward truth and consensus.” (Johnson 147). 

This week’s reading reminded me of a modern-day example of a scientific advancement that some members of the Christian church have openly contended with: stem cell research. Stem cells are obtained from unimplanted human embryos and despite their promise in treating some of the most miserable afflictions known to our kind – like spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s, type 1 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s etc. – some find this harvesting practice to be unethical. 

A “technological fix” is the idea of applying engineering principals and problem solving to social issues. Examples of these include engineering safer cars to decrease deaths on the roadways as opposed to trying to alter driving behaviors or putting filters in cigarettes rather than promoting health education campaigns to convince people to quit smoking (Johnston 50). An unintended byproduct of wartime collaborative efforts is scientific progress and innovation, so it is not surprising that the idea of using technology to solve societal problems gained popularity following the nuclear revolution of WWII. Huesemann and Huesemann argue that due to the interconnectedness of nature on all levels from macro to microscopic, our efforts to subdue, and exploit nature often result in severe unintended consequences that are usually unforeseen and irreversible. They also claim that the concept of a separation between humans and nature is complete folly. With these sentiments I could not agree more. When I first read Sapiens a few years ago I recall feeling like humans are a parasite of the Earth, and this article engendered very similar feelings in me. Cheery Saturday read overall. 

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