GMOs and intellectual arrogance

Without examining either the societal or biological realities of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), the technology appears intellectually arrogant from the position of NOR (Non-Objective Reality).   A basic honest understanding of evolutionary theory makes the case.

Ultimately, the finer points of evolution remain a mystery – but the mechanism can be summarized as largely about optimizing survival amidst changing and challenging circumstances.

Biological evolution is not considered to have any conscious intention in the way a farmer intends to reap a harvest when sowing seeds.   Instead, genetic code is inherently variable, such that some variations will prove resilient within whatever conditions prevail.   This continuously varied and fluid dynamic keeps lifeforms prepared for a wide variety of challenges.

In this sense evolution resembles a lottery; however many losers, it is nonetheless bound to have winners.   It is not tethered to any thought-out plan or belief that it understands how to optimize life.   Such rigid ideas are human ones based on fixed notions and goals, and are therefore inherently inflexible and ill-prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

Evolution resembles a farmer who simply sows all his seed varieties together, on the basis some at least will be adapted to thrive amidst whatever conditions ensue.   Of course, few farmers actually work this way, even if nature arguably works no other way.

This open aspect of natural evolution transcends the life-cycle of single instances: it can include how a species spreads geographically through natural transportation, as well as how it interfaces with other species in mutually beneficial symbiosis.   In effect, all bases are covered by a strategy unconstrained by any dedicated pursuit of a particular end – other than perhaps the ruthless propagation of life in general.

However, being theoretical derivations of the human mind, all such ideas are nothing more than crude attempts to grapple with the massive complexity of the living world.   As a consequence, evolutionary theory is noticeably a hotbed of contention.   Any intelligent mind accepts the corresponding real-world situation is largely beyond comprehension.

But regardless of whatever remains unknown or poorly understood, natural evolution has proven highly effective for millions of years – always bouncing back in the face of even dramatic environmental changes.   It certainly needs no human explanations to function with incredible success – so much so that intellectually separating it off from nature itself is dubiously divisive.

It is arguable that prior to human intervention, the overall abundance of Earth’s life was naturally maximized.   If survival is seen as a competition for the environment’s life-giving resources, it is reasonable to assume that nature as a whole evolved the optimal mix to best utilize them.   Wherever unused resources existed, some lifeform would surely appear to exploit them.   In short, life was naturally maximizing its ability to thrive as a whole.

But such bountiful planetary life is now history amidst barren wastes, land erosion, and the pollution of human industrial activity.   Our explosion in numbers has been at the cost of countless other species, as highlighted by the rather lifeless expanses of concrete, tarmac, glass, steel and dead wood that make up urban landscapes.

Human disruption arguably started when we began using nature’s resources for basic technological purposes, such as felling trees to build dwellings.   But the impact, given small human populations, could be regarded as negligible and no worse than various non-human assaults on lifeforms.

The advent of agriculture was obviously a more serious affair, with land being cleared and worked on a regular basis.   Natural biology was both disrupted and denied any chance to fully recover.   However, prior to the modern introduction of man-made chemicals, the worst effects of widespread agriculture were no worse than simply diminishing the degree to which life could flourish.   Farming land with natural seed and fertilizers does not actually poison lifeforms with deliberately toxic substances – it only impedes the ability of some to thrive.

Of course, the goal all along was never about protecting the natural lifeforms of the planet; it was about optimizing the availability of human-preferred resources – mostly food.   Farming has always centered on livestock and crops serving human ends, and worried little about nature in general.   It has little concern with life on the planet as a whole – a concept remaining somewhat mysterious and largely beyond the mind’s comprehension in any case.

But the fact that the true interconnectedness of life largely defeats our powers of abstract comprehension does not mean absolutely nothing of it can be understood, and certainly not that such a perspective should be ignored.   As living organisms amidst the overall mix, we only threaten ourselves by disrespecting the powers of nature that sustain us.   To overlook those powers simply because they are beyond us is to embrace foolish intellectual arrogance.   And although human history has generally disregarded whatever did not directly further human goals, today’s world proves this to be a doomed strategy.

We can surely reason how and why reckless indifference to whatever does not offer immediate benefits is often to our own detriment; the big picture is simply not well enough understood to disrupt it without risking untoward consequences.   And if ignorance is the problem, we can at least acknowledge the proof before our eyes that problems are caused by acting from uninformed positions.

The interrelated changes of climate, sea, atmosphere, land, and biological life, ridicule any idea that human activity of its current nature and scale does not have unforeseen and generally detrimental impacts.   Unintended changes we inflict on the environment tend to impede both lifeforms regarded as incidental to human goals, and others seen as central.   And this is exactly as expected if nature is viewed in a wholesome manner.   Injuring any part of our body in some way compromises our overall fitness and health.

Certain species are obviously farmed with immediate success, but the overall result is that the increasing human disruption of the environment poses longer-term survival problems for all species – humans included.   This is no surprise, if only from the perspective that evolutionary adaptation takes time.   For example, even if homo sapiens can evolve to be more resilient to the radiation and other carcinogens now polluting the environment, this will surely take generations; simply subjecting ourselves to such threats without even knowing if such adaptation is possible is obviously a disastrous survival strategy.

As regards our limited ability to steer a route through the changes we visit on this planet, do we have the intellectual courage to understand why we travel such a dangerous road in the first place?   Do we have the humility to accept that many problems we create are born of our own ignorance regarding how nature and the planet will react to our interventions?   Can we swallow our hubris and pride about our supposed intelligence, and start learning about the unknown depths of our ignorance and the manifest consequences of ignoring it?

Failure to be honest about global problems being rooted in both lack of knowledge and intellectual arrogance can only mask possible remedies.   Would any remedies necessarily involve further actions on our part in any case, or should we simply cease certain actions instrumental in creating problems?   Perhaps we do not actually need to solve problems: we just need to stop perpetuating them.

From a NOR perspective, nothing is ever fully understood – at least, certainly not from within abstract thought.   Hence, stating that life is a mystery is not just some dramatic tidbit or vaguely romantic utterance; it is a philosophical touchstone that should qualify all ideas, however solid or objective they may appear.   No matter how sure we might feel about the details of anything we examine, we can never know the wider ramifications of our actions.

A common response to such caution argues we must nonetheless do the best we can with what knowledge we have.   But the knowledge we have already includes that life was not created by human intelligence and that strategies based on whatever that intelligence might be have a rapidly expanding track record of disrupting and destroying life.   This awkward truth is as much part of the knowledge we have as anything else.

If the many achievements of the human intellect do not include the creation of life, they certainly include its destruction.   Recognizing this fact is itself a form of intelligence, whereas denying it is willful stupidity.   No scientific experiment has ever been conducted as extensively as the many centuries of human activity that substantiate this point on a global scale.

As regards genetic modification technology, its growing sophistication over the centuries took a sudden quantum leap forward when research developed an understanding of specific genes, and how to mix genes from dramatically different species.   Given the power these modern techniques have unleashed, they can understandably be seen as playing god.   But given life existed long before humankind, these genetic techniques could equally be seen as a foolish tampering with god’s proven skills.

The fact is biotechnology sits outside the inanimate physical world in which human science at least established a solid track record of producing intended results – albeit alongside many unintended ones.   But if life is a mystery, it is therefore also unpredictable.   Hence, when tampering with god’s work, we act from a position of not properly understanding what we are about, or what the longer-term outcomes might be.   Enthusiastic as the human mind might be in approaching its ideal of god, it most definitely is not omniscient.

If we are to ever approach that ideal in earnest, it will not be through any fragmented and partial model of the world that happily ignores whatever remains unknown.   Respect for our ignorance would instead remind us that evolutionary thinking is just our failing attempts to understand matters ultimately too complex for the mind to comprehend.

As one of our most prized achievements to date, the theory of evolution dictates that together with other lifeforms, we are generally optimized for conditions existing prior to our massive impact on the planet.   And although it might be logically argued that a changed environment favors changed forms of life, this in no way suggests humans are equipped to specify what any suitable changes might be.

The mere fact this current discussion is intelligible whilst ignoring that life thrives in manners remaining largely incomprehensible, is an indication of just how fragmented abstract thinking really is.   The human mind is simply incapable of grasping the complexity of biology and relationships between species found within any environment – not to mention the additional role of inanimate variables.   Even the idea specific environments can be considered in isolation is more evidence of our subliminal reluctance to humble ourselves before the unfathomable interconnectedness of all natural life.

Pride in our little snippets of knowledge leaves us blinded by endless details that actually block any understanding of how and why the bigger picture remains hidden to the conventional cognitive tools of abstract thought.

The dangers of genetic engineering are not unique in these respects.   However, they perhaps best highlight willful human blindness in the face of the mind’s ability to reason its own limits.   Even as nature demonstrates that despite human attempts to contort its behavior it is far more creative than any scientist, the GMO industry remains focused on profits in manners rendering such truths too awkward to address.

It is only necessary to look at the financial muscle embedded within the corporate promotion of GMO technology to understand its attendant perversion of human knowledge, reason and integrity.   And it is notable how little interest exists in such technology where it is not backed by its corrupting commercial mix of related pesticides, herbicides, well-funded propaganda, and geopolitical pressure.   The toxins are both physical and spiritual.

Anyone championing the technology on the basis it is going to perform its promised miracles should inform themselves outside the corporate-owned media, the world of corporate propaganda, and culturally received ideas propagated by these operations.   The argument that GMOs are somehow going to feed the starving millions only emphasizes a failure to realize such human-centric thinking actually caused the very problems human technology is still pretending it can resolve.

It is no coincidence that GMOs have next to no support wherever good yields are sought from environmentally harmonious genuine low-cost farming.   After all, it is ultimately nature – not humans – that grows the crops.