Can We Change? Or Are We Doomed?January 29, 2012
A recent contemplation of the fate of our species was offered in the updated, 2008 version of the great B &W film “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
In an early scene the hero, Keanu Reeves, meets in a restaurant with an elderly Chinese man. At least he appears to be Chinese. But in fact he is an alien agent, living on earth for many years and tasked to study humans. To find out what makes us tick. And most specifically, to find out if there is any hope that the destruction our species is inflicting on planet earth will be stopped by us….if in fact, whether our destructive ways CAN be stopped.
The Chinese man reports to Reeves, who has been sent as the final arbiter of our fate. Reeves will decide whether to let us persist or eliminate us so that earth itself can survive with its species and ecology intact. The Chinese man reports that he has grown fond of us. But that sadly, we are incorrigible. He tells Reeves, “The tragedy is that they know they are doomed. They sense it. But they can’t do anything about it.”
Later in the film, when the heroine discovers that Reeves will set in motion the means of our obliteration, she begs him to wait, to stop, pleading that “We can change.”
Ah. But can we? The first film by this name was about our inability to stop making war. Since we’ve (incorrectly) pretty much conceded that we can’t, the 2008 filmmakers decided they would have to take on some other of our wicked ways. They settled on our alteration of the climate and rape of the earth’s animal and plant resources.
In our real world, with respect to both issues—war and potentially fatal environmental destruction—the verdict is still out. Maybe we can’t change. Maybe we are a kind of planet-wide cancer that needs to be excised for the planet’s well-being?
A Future Without War—this website’s entire work—is premised on the knowledge that humans are in fact capable of radical social/behavioral change. We could end the practice of war if we decide to do it. War is a matter of will….not biology.
If you’d like
• historical examples of how we have changed radically and rapidly and even purposefully before, and
• discussion of why we could end war and what it would take to do it,
here are two recent works of evolutionary biologist Dr. Judith Hand that can swiftly provide insight for you, your students, your friends and family, for all of us:
Essay: “To Abolish War.”