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Too Smart for our Own Good

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  • 60 b/w illus. 2 tables
  • Page extent: 546 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 1.07 kg

Paperback

 (ISBN-13: 9780521757690)

Too Smart for Our Own Good
Cambridge University Press
9780521764360 - Too Smart for Our Own Good - The Ecological Predicament of Humankind - By Craig Dilworth
Frontmatter/Prelims

Too Smart for Our Own Good: The Ecological Predicament of Humankind

We are destroying our natural environment at a constantly increasing pace, and in so doing undermining the preconditions of our own existence. Why is this so? This book reveals that our ecologically disruptive behaviour is in fact rooted in our very nature as a species.

Drawing on evolution theory, biology, anthropology, archaeology, economics, environmental science and history, this book explains our ecological predicament by placing it in the context of the first scientific theory of humankind’s development, taking over where Darwin left off.

The theory presented is applied in detail to the whole of our seven- million-year history. Due to its comprehensiveness, and in part thanks to its extensive glossary and index, this book can function as a compact encyclopædia covering the whole development of Homo sapiens. It would also suit many courses in the life and social sciences. Most importantly, Too Smart for Our Own Good makes evident the very core of the paradigm to which our species must shift if it is to survive.

Anyone concerned about the future of humankind should read this groundbreaking work.

Craig Dilworth, Canadian by birth, received his PhD in Sweden in 1981, and is presently Reader in Theoretical Philosophy at Uppsala University. A true generalist, his work includes creating and running various environmental projects, as well as purely academic studies in metaphysics, philosophy of science, human ecology, theoretical physics, theoretical biology and the social sciences. He is the author of two majors works in the philosophy of science, Scientific Progress (1981; 4th edn. 2008) and The Metaphysics of Science (1996; 2nd edn. 2007), and an earlier book in human ecology, Sustainable Development and Decision Making (1997).


Too Smart for Our Own Good

The Ecological Predicament of Humankind

Craig Dilworth

Department of Philosophy Uppsala University, Sweden


CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
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Cambridge University Press

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Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York

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Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521764360

© C. Dilworth 2010

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2010

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Dilworth, Craig.
Too smart for our own good : the ecological predicament of humankind / 
Craig Dilworth.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-521-76436-0 (hardback)
1. Human evolution. 2. Human ecology. I. Title.
GN281.D56 2009
599.93'8–dc22  2009028743

ISBN 978-0-521-76436-0 Hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-75769-0 Paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


It is highly probable that with mankind the intellectual faculties have been mainly and gradually perfected through natural selection.

Charles Darwin

Although the brain of Homo sapiens is no larger than that of Neanderthal man, the indirect evidence strongly suggests that the first Homo sapiens was a much more intelligent creature.

Sherwood Washburn

If there is one thing of which we can be certain it is of the high adaptive value of intelligence as a factor in both the mental and physical evolution of man. Instinct does not permit the emergence of novelty, of innovation, or of originality. Intelligence does.

Ashley Montagu

We can see, that in the rudest state of society, the individuals who were the most sagacious, who invented and used the best weapons or traps, and who were best able to defend themselves, would rear the greatest number of offspring.

Charles Darwin

There are no criteria except adaptation. Intelligence was never an end in itself: it developed because of its adaptive advantages.

Richard Wilkinson

The structure of modern man must be the result of the change in the terms of natural selection that came with the tool-using way of life. It was the success of the simplest tools that started the whole trend of human evolution and led to the civilizations of today.

Sherwood Washburn

The world has again and again approached the condition of being saturated with human inhabitants, only to have the limit raised by human ingenuity.

William Catton, Jr.

It appears that we must regard the growth of intellect as having enabled man to avoid the serious consequences which a fecundity in excess of that necessary to ensure our species’ survival would otherwise have brought about.

A. M. Carr-Saunders

An increase in efficiency by natural selection may endanger the whole population if it reaches the point where the source of food is wiped out. A curb upon the presumed evolutionary trend towards greater hunting skill would therefore be of advantage. For human beings we thus reach the paradoxical conclusion that in times of the pressure of population on food resources any process which tended to lower the mental capacity, physical dexterity or perceptual acuity of a certain number of individuals might mean the saving of the race.

D. H. Stott

We have failed to take into account the long-run consequences of just doing what we have always done – but better and better. The further our cleverness departs from nature’s well worked out patterns, the greater the likelihood that the clever action will have unintended consequences – ones likely to injure humans and the environment.

Lester W. Milbrath

The very aspect of human nature that enabled Homo sapiens to become the dominant species in all of nature was also what made human dominance precarious at best, and perhaps inexorably self-defeating.

William Catton, Jr.

One is tempted to believe that every gift bestowed on man by his power of conceptual thought has to be paid for with a dangerous evil as the direct consequence of it.

Konrad Lorenz

Man is far too clever to be able to survive without wisdom.

E. F. Schumacher

“Paul here had some questions,” said Kroner.

“Questions? Questions, my boy?”

He wanted to know if we weren’t doing something bad in the name of progress.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

It is because the reality of Progress can never be determined that the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have had to treat it as an article of religious faith.

Aldous Huxley

Or is there anybody who would seriously deny that during the past hundred thousand years Homo sapiens has made progress and has improved himself?

Max Planck

The growing threat to the planet and to humanity caused by the over-success of technology has generated severe doubts as to the entire notion of progress so popular in the Western world.

Sol Tax

Once again it appears that a formidable group of innovations should not be regarded as the fruits of a society’s search for progress, but as the outcome of a valiant struggle of a society with its back to the ecological wall.

Richard Wilkinson

Society must cease to look upon ‘progress’ as something desirable. ‘Eternal Progress’ is a nonsensical myth.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

To deride the hope of progress is the ultimate fatuity, the last word in poverty of spirit and meanness of mind.

Sir Peter Medawar

It does happen that what evil people achieve and pass on to evil people following them brings about progress. If this were not so, the world could never have attained its high level of technological development.

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

Rather than progressing, we have developed our technology as a means of approximating as closely as possible the old status quo in the face of our ever-increasing numbers.

Mark Nathan Cohen

One should not be ashamed of a belief in progress. It is painfully slow and intermittent, interspersed with catastrophes and reversals, but there is a strong case for believing that in the long run it is built into the system, provided there is not an ultimate and irretrievable catastrophe.

Kenneth Boulding

The vaunted ‘progress’ of modern civilization is only a thin cloak for global catastrophe.

Barry Commoner

Man is by nature a jeopardized creature.

Arnold Gehlen

Any group, or clade, that slowly becomes extinct must reach a stage with only one existing species. Humans have reached that stage, as has the aardvark.

Roger Lewin

What is wrong with the world is that many things are wrong with human nature.

R. M. Yerkes and A. W. Yerkes

It is as if the human species were determined to have a short but exciting life.

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen


Contents

List of figures and tables
xii
Preface
xv
Introduction
1
1       Scientific ground rules
3
Principles of physics, chemistry and biology
3
Physical and biological systems
10
Genetics and homeostasis
16
2       The new views in anthropology, archaeology and economics
50
Anthropology
52
Archaeology
75
Economics
91
3       Theoretical background to the vicious circle principle
99
The principle of population
99
Different kinds of population check
102
Population growth pushes technology
105
Ecological equilibrium, technological/economic development and economic growth
107
4       The vicious circle principle of the development of humankind
109
Presentation of the vicious circle principle
109
Explication of the vicious circle principle
113
Conclusion
167
5       The development of humankind
168
Apes and protohominids 7 million bp
168
The first hominids: Australopithecus 4 million bp
172
The first humans 2.5 million bp
183
The Neanderthals 230,000 bp
190
The Upper Palaeolithic in Europe 40,000 bp
199
The latter half of the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe 25,000 bp
207
The Palaeolithic–Mesolithic transformation 12,000 bp
212
VCP analysis of the hunter-gatherer era
218
VCP models of increasing complexity
232
The hunter-gatherer model
233
The horticultural (domestication) revolution 10,000 bp
234
VCP analysis of the horticultural era
247
The horticultural model
268
Mining metals 6000 bp
269
The agrarian (plough and irrigation) revolution 5000 bp
272
Colonisation and the (capitalistic) mercantile expansion 1500 ad
294
VCP analysis of the agrarian era
297
The agrarian model
308
The (capitalistic) industrial (fossil-fuel) revolution 1750 ad
310
VCP analysis of the industrial age
327
The industrial model
354
6       The vicious circle today
356
Our use of minerals
356
Biotic consumption
359
Pollution
370
Extinctions
373
Population growth and checks; morals
373
Migration
374
Power begets more power: capitalism
375
The Third World
376
Global military spending and war
383
Economic growth
386
Disease
387
The 1950s–1960s peak and the subsequent lowering of the quality of life of the middle class
389
7       … and too dumb to change
393
Perspectives and worldviews
396
Planning
398
The pursuit of economic growth
399
Innovation
415
Nuclear energy
416
Agriculture
418
Medicine
426
Resource depletion
431
Pollution
435
Energy conservation
436
Alternative sources of energy
437
Population growth
437
Conflict
440
The Third World
445
Overshoot and the ecological revolution
451
Conclusion
453
Glossary
455
Notes
468
References
499
Index
517



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