Social Question

zookeeny's avatar

The earth is here for us or we are here for the earth?

Asked by zookeeny (888points) December 9th, 2009
73 responses
“Great Question” (5points)

If the earth is here for us then is it our resposibility to care for it or will it adjust itself to give us what we need when we need it? Or if we are here for the earth then are we doing exactly what it wants us to do by depleating its resources so fast that we eliminate ourself and then after humans are destroyed life will eventually begin again in another way with different species – like it has done before.

Are we pawns in the earths game plan?

This question was inspired by a book I have just finished reading called Everyday Survival by Lawrence Gonzales – have you read it? I found it facinating and would be keen to hear other peoples views on some of his ideas. Also any other similar reading you would reccommend. Thanks :)

Observing members: 0
Composing members: 0


DrasticDreamer's avatar

Earth is definitely here for us. We can’t survive without it, but it can most definitely survive without humans. Not only are we on the verge of killing our species, but we’re eliminating tons of other species in the process. I think AIDS is natures way of taking care of us. We’re more like a virus than a natural part of the process anymore.

simone54's avatar

We are here to fuck up Earth.

holden's avatar

“I think AIDS is nature’s way of taking care of us”

Since the primary victims of AIDS are impoverished Sub-Saharan Africans with little access to proper health care or sexual education, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that AIDS is the first world’s way of taking care of the third world?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@holden No, because people didn’t create AIDS. People from better off countries just aren’t doing anything to take care of the problem. No one is immune, even with health care and education.

holden's avatar

Well, I think it’s no more truthful to say that AIDS is nature’s weapon against humanity. Natural selection does not imply that nature has an agenda.

zookeeny's avatar

Does natural selection have a pattern or is it random do you think?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I’m too philosophical for these questions. Life is a paradox – anything is possible.

zookeeny's avatar

Anything is possible? Anything? Does chance affect that? What is the paradox of life? (Be as philosophical as you like about it)

holden's avatar

It is possible that I am going to bed right now.

Good night, world!

Response moderated
absalom's avatar

Definitely neither. We just both happen to be here.

dalepetrie's avatar

I’m going to have to agree with the late great George Carlin on this one:

“The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ‘cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?” Plastic…asshole.”

Christian95's avatar

none.I strongly believe in randomness of things.

Haleth's avatar

@zookeeny I’ve had this exact conversation when I was high. It was fascinating.

On a more practical level, eventually we will come to a point where we are forced to adapt to the environment we create, or we will die. Whether it means cutting back on our industrial output and population, and dealing with the economic consequences (which would be huge if we got really serious about fixing the environment) or whether we adapt in some other way like colonizing other planets, humanity will eventually have to come up with something out of necessity. Maybe whatever shift we make will cause us to adapt and evolve into more intelligent, responsible creatures, or maybe we’ll die off like the dinosaurs and some other life form will take our place.

Venus is so hot because it has runaway greenhouse gas- almost none of the heat from the sun ever makes it out of the atmosphere again. Because of its position, it should be an average of only ten degrees hotter than the earth. That’s still a lot- one degree on earth causes glaciers to melt, stuff like that. My astronomy teacher said that early astronomers thought to find a lush tropical jungle on Venus and an alpine climate on Mars if those planets had atmosphere. Sweet, huh? What if Venus was like Earth once? That would be freaky.

YARNLADY's avatar

What is, is, and that’s all there is. No purpose involved.

rooeytoo's avatar

I believe the earth is here for me! I have been using it for almost 65 years and in return I compost everything I can so I hope it hangs on for a while longer cuz I’m not quite ready to go yet.

nisse's avatar

Philosophically i think a rational answer would be neither, we don’t know why we’re here, or why the earth is here. If you feel the need, you can make up your own mind on what you think is the case, but I think you’ll have a hard time to come up with supporting arguments.

tuxuday's avatar

I won’t differentiate earth from us. We are part of Earth.

We do have strong arguments that we, humans, have sucked up a lot of it. As the adage goes ‘Nature has its own way’, there is AIDS and so on. The counter argument is that what would have happened if human population was stable like < 1B. We can’t say for sure that we wouldn’t have had plague epidemics in 1930/1940s or AIDS now.

coffeenut's avatar

Humans are the Earths herpes that’s why the other planets are so far away from earth, so they don’t catch it…

majorrich's avatar

We are just the current tenants. We will destroy ourselves or get wiped out somehow, and then the next tenants will move in. I dont even think the earth knows we are here

Fyrius's avatar

You’re anthropomorphising the earth. Don’t do that.

The earth is a lump of rock. It’s inanimate. It does not have a mind of its own. It is physically unable to “want” us to do anything.
It also cannot “do” what we want it to do. The world will only become what we want it to be if we work hard to make it so. The world is no more there specifically for us to adapt than a tree is there specifically so that people can carve a canoe out of its trunk. It’s our own inventiveness and creativity and hard work that allow us to exploit whatever possibilities happen to be here.

I think you need to come to terms with the fact that there are some things in the universe that are not people.

deni's avatar

We haven’t always been here. The Earth wasn’t made for us. It was made and now we’re on it…....but we won’t always be so we should quit beating the shit out of it and acting like it was designed specifically so we could do so.

erichw1504's avatar

Technically, the Earth was here before us, even before dinosaurs. So, most likely we are here on Earth pretty much destroying it.

Harp's avatar

I just read an interesting book that proposes that what we perceive as the material universe exists because we consciously observe it, and that therefor the earth (and the rest of the cosmos) is here, not for us, but because of us (the “us” being conscious beings, not specifically humans).

He bases his argument on quantum weirdness, specifically the implications of the double-slit experiment, and concludes that without conscious observation, “reality” exists only as a probability wave function.

JLeslie's avatar

When I think of the earth I don’t think of diseases like AIDS, I think of the soil, the oceans, the abundance of wonderful plants and animals and nutrients provided to us, and that we should care for the earth and preserve it. Moreover, I can’t help think that all life on our planet is sharing in the experience of life on earth and how sad that we cannot all get along and have peace. Read this it is a story about the woman space tourist, Anousheh Ansari. Within the article she says “Flying was fun, but Anousheh says the best part of her trip was the spectacular view. “When you see the Earth for what it is, you couldn’t see any borders. You couldn’t see any signs of wars. … It was just pure peace and beauty,” she says. “You wonder, ‘How could people ever do things to harm it?’”

CMaz's avatar

The earth is here.

We are just part of the process.

Don’t think we could screw it up that badly that it would not correct itself over time.

wundayatta's avatar

@Fyrius I was going to make the comment about anthropomorphizing inanimate things, but I read through to see if anyone had already made it, and you had! Good job!

So what does that leave me? Do I want to take an opposite point of view just for fun?

Well, I think that there is a way of looking at questions like this as not really being what they look like they are about. I think we frame questions like this as a way of creating meaning or purpose for ourselves. @zookeeny might be looking for some confirmation of his or her own view of meaning.

Most of us know that meaning is what we personally want it to be. We say that by insisting that the earth is inanimate and there is no why for its or our existence. It happens, but it doesn’t mean anything in a larger sense. It’s not like the universe has a plan. We just are.

Even so, the question also poses another underlying theme: how should we treat the earth. Depending on how we see it, we may take different courses of action. This is quite relevant to the global warming debate.

Some people argue that the Earth is a garden that succors humanity, and, as such, we need to be good stewards in order to protect our descendants and our species. Obviously, then, the Earth is here for us, and is ours to do what we will with.

Other people argue that it doesn’t matter what humans do. We can’t control the Earth on a global scale, and we are merely a part of an eons-long pattern where Earth grows hotter and colder as various factors affect it. This, I suppose, is the awkwardly conceived “we are here for the Earth” meme.

Both phrases bring in the idea of service—with the question being who serves whom. This idea of service as a particularly human idea, because it is what works in a social context. It is a survival strategy. It is about cooperation.

In response, people suggest the question—“is cooperation possible with an inanimate object?” I don’t know. Is it?

The Earth’s “behavior” is an incredibly complicated, interlocking, interdependent system. It seems to me that humans are displaying a lot of hubris in believing they can understand enough about the atmosphere to be able to intervene in it’s behavior. For God’s sake, weather reports aren’t accurate more than five or ten days out, and we are trying to predict and affect an outcome centuries away????

While the effort is laudable, I think it is also laughable. I think it would be far better to spend our money trying to prepare for the consequences of rising sea levels, and increased warmth in the middle latitudes. There will be huge migrations of people, although they will take place over a long period of time. We need a better way to manage migration—which is already a big problem.

Moving to wind and solar power makes sense, because it is a more efficient way of generating power – over the long run. Building buildings so they use less energy also is more efficient, saving money to pay for health care (you didn’t think it was going to go for fun things, did you???) I really don’t think we need to worry about the carbon footprint of industry. Competition is going to take care of that for us. The energy profligate industries just won’t be able to compete.

End of political statement, and back to philosophy.

What is the mean of human presence on earth? People often mistake this question as seeking a larger, global or universal meaning. However, all meaning making is relevant only to humans, and there is no evidence that there is any other conscious entity out there to care. The universe, as far as we can tell, is both a clock and a chaotic system (anyone have a good metaphor for that idea?), and it may only exist, as @Harp reminds us, because we are here to perceive it.

So what is the meaning of this planet (our planet?) to humanity? Well, that’s for every individual to decide for themselves. What one person believes is what they believe. It’s not right nor wrong. They might want to try to impose their beliefs on someone else, but that’s just plain rude!

Still, beliefs matter in a social context. We can organize groups to enact one set of actions or another. That’s called politics. We take actions based on our beliefs, as if our beliefs have a high correlation with what we think of as the real world. But beliefs are not highly correlated with the behavior of the real world. So that makes them into something like the dogma of a religion. It becomes a matter of faith.

Which brings us back to the question. Is the earth is here for us or we are here for the earth? This is a question about faith, and it is phrased in the language of faith. For those without faith, it is a meaningless question. All one can do is be agnostic.

Unfortunately, many people feel extreme discomfort with agnosticism, because it provides no guidance for action. Most people would rather take action—any action—rather than remain agnostic. Agnosticism is a socially untenable position, because everyone else wants you to identify yourself. Well—I’m not going to. The simple truth is that I don’t know whether the earth is here for us or we are here for the earth.

Fyrius's avatar

At your service. :D

deni's avatar

Ishmael, also…...

antimatter's avatar

We are not here for earth, we are killing it.
We are responsible for most of the destruction of our rain forests, oceans, land and air.
I compare humans to parasites. We destroy and move on to destroy again and again.

Pazza's avatar

Wether it be by chance or design, if we don’t start to have a symbiotic relationship with mother Earth, then we’re all ruining any chance our children and grandchildren will have of a fruitfull life.

The technology exists today to have an energy clean life, and this energy source is practicaly inexhaustable. But our system of commerse which is monetary biased will always prevent this technology from being implemented as long as their is profit to be made.

Human beings(human resources) will always come second to monetary gain in this system.

LostInParadise's avatar

The earth is here for us. There are philosophers who say, even without @Harp‘s quantum weirdness, that we create the earth, because we are the only ones who can conceive of it in its entirety. I still make a case for peserving the natural world, even if we can find a sustainable way of living without most of it, because in not doing so we are replacing the extraordinary beauty that we were given with something truly ugly and dehumanizing.

davidk's avatar

There will be a point when the earth is enveloped by the sun. In the last stages of our star’s existence, it will expand to become a Red Giant—some 5.5 billion years from now. All life as we know it will be eradicated long before the sun starts to cool down again as it burns itself out and becomes a White Dwarf.

This is certainly Global Warming on a massive scale…but I digress.

Anyway…If humanity had ever only sought to live in harmony with our natural environment, our technical prowess would approximate that of the Neolithic Age.

The technical progress achieved up to this point in human history rests squarely on a massive pile of trash and the destruction of nature. Start thinking about the historic trail of trash and pollution that every step of human technical progress has generated and you’ll get what I mean.

This same technology has allowed humans to see the damage and potential damage and create the scientific tools to predict the life cycle of the sun, for instance. Without it, this discussion would not even be taking place!

It is a strange thing indeed to contemplate the fact that we would have had no chance of survival, ZERO, as a species, if we had continued living as a Neolithic creature—relatively “in harmony with nature.” However, that massive pile of trash has given us a chance at getting the hell off this rock and going elsewhere BEFORE the sun turns into a Red Giant.

A weird dilemma, huh?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

The earth is not here to serve us – we have taken advantage of it

lloydbird's avatar

Perhaps ‘Manifestation’ naturally seeks a vehicle for clear and expressive self experience universally. Could that be us? Are we one of those kinds? And if so, could we be at the
not quite realised it yet stage?
I suspect so, and suspect that we are almost there!
OK, so our, superb, technological advancements are highlighting our environmental difficulties, but isn’t this just the first step to solving any problem, i.e. knowing of its existence?

Maybe peace, love, harmony and great, great fun are just around the corner for us all.

The Earth is here for us to become.

holden's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir yes, the notion that the earth was put here specifically for us is pretty egocentric and misinformed. But very Christian, as it would happen.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@holden but…you repeat yourself..:)~

holden's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir blasphemer! to the stocks!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@holden again? that’s the third time this week! oh fiiiine

Maximillian's avatar

I like part of daloons answer. Personally, (don’t ask why I stand this way) I believe that Earth is here for the benefit of man. We are to take use, not abuse, of its resources for the better of man. Unfortunately, we’ve already done that. We have gone beyond our power of dominance and are, quite effectively, destroying the Earth. So, for me: Earth for humans, yet humans take care of Earth. Very simple. (Also, those of you who say that we are parasites, I will take that as an insult. We are misguided human beings, not mindless animals.)

deni's avatar

Sorry but I think it’s extremely selfish to think that the Earth is here for us. Seriously? How can you believe that? The world doesn’t revolve around humans anymore than it revolves around jellyfish (woah, totally wasn’t even thinking about the fact that fluther = jellyfish, lol) or leopards or buffalo or planarians. We’re just another animal…just because we’ve evolved into a more intelligent type of animal that is able to reason and run businesses and chop down forests doesn’t mean we SHOULD cause so much harm to such a beautiful thing.

rooeytoo's avatar

If the world is not here for us (us being all the creatures that live on it) who is it here for?

Maybe some guy is going to land in a space ship and it is for him???

majorrich's avatar

I read we are scheduled for destruction because we are in the way for some trans-galaxy freeway or something like that. I could be mistaken it’s been a long time since I could read,

LostInParadise's avatar

@majorrich , That occurred at the beginning of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@rooeytoo no one. it just is.

Pazza's avatar

So animals are mindless?
I wouldn’t worry about the Earth, anything we do to the climate will only affect life, once we’ve buggered up the atmosphere and environment to the point we cannot survive, we’ll all die off and the Earth will recover to the point were a visiter would think we’d never even existed.

deni's avatar

It’s not “for” anyone or anything.

Pazza's avatar

Its only out for itself? how selfish! I don’t want to live on this sefish planet anymore.
Right wheres Richard Branson gone?.....

Pazza's avatar

Hhhhmmmm, you can write, but you can’t read…..curious!....~

rooeytoo's avatar

I think this question is too ethereal for me. I would rather worry about how to preserve it, that seems more practical.

deni's avatar

me as well :)

LeopardGecko's avatar

Earth is here for us. The Earth was present before we were, and we’re not here to save it as we can do nothing to do so.

rooeytoo's avatar

Okey dokey mr. gecko, I will continue to do what I can to preserve and perhaps that will help to offset what you are not doing!

majorrich's avatar

@Pazza I get eye spasm’s after about ten minutes of reading. then have to rest for about an hour before hitting it again. Brief glimpses seem to be OK. I had a couple TIA’s and screwed a bunch of stuff up.

LeopardGecko's avatar

rooeytoo – I am not doing wrong when I am doing right. You’re just wasting your time preserving something that won’t go away.

rooeytoo's avatar

@LeopardGecko – I have no idea what you mean but I sincerely defend your right to say it!

Maximillian's avatar

@Pazza You are missing the point. When I said mindless animals, I meant that, we have, in fact, evolved far beyond all creatures of this planet. Perhaps it seems harsh, but we are the true dominant race. We have developed to become this. If we are, as some claim, only to be animals, then we, the human race, fought to become so. We fought for control of evolution. In fact, we fought so much, that we deserve to be at the top. And yet, we also have an obligation to care for those creatures that have not evolved like us. We also have an obligation to care for the Earth that holds us. Mindless animals means creatures that can not form a thought beyond a basic instinct.

Fyrius's avatar

Just going to clear up an implied misconception here.
Humans are not at the top of the evolutionary ladder.
This is because there is no evolutionary ladder.
Evolution is tree-shaped. It goes in all directions, and no existing life form is “more evolved” than any other one.

We evolved to become very intelligent. The other life forms also evolved, but in other directions; better camouflage, stronger muscles, greater stamina, sharper senses. Our luck is that our intelligence has proven much more valuable than anything the other species developed.

deni's avatar

@Fyrius interesting fact! a bird in the galapagos islands has evolved to not be able to fly. they have absolutely no need to because they have no natural predators on the islands. so their wings are dwindling down. evolution is so fuckin cool!

Fyrius's avatar

Totally. :D

And in case that was sarcasm, because it’s hard to tell on the internet: this probably shows that functional wings are expensive to maintain, for example by having larger muscles that use up more energy just by being there.
Is too.

deni's avatar

@Fyrius it wasn’t sarcasted, i really do think its fascinating :)

Fyrius's avatar

High five, then. :)

Maximillian's avatar

@Fyrius You make a good point. Perhaps it was incorrect of me to say we have evolved better. But I still say that, like you say, our intelligence puts us at the top of maybe not evolution, but the food chain. We can create a logical thought, compared to a basic instinct.

Fyrius's avatar

Fair enough.
And regardless of my side note, I agree with your main point that our more efficient ways of thinking* have put us in charge of this planet.

* Or our intelligence, if you prefer, but I find that term a bit more disputable. It’s difficult to pinpoint what part of “intelligence” we have that other animals lack. What’s indisputable is that what we do works better.

Why yes, I am a nit picker.

Maximillian's avatar

Don’t you love general agreements? lol

Fyrius's avatar

I sure prefer general agreements to complete and exact agreements. :)
The former tend to be more thoughtful.

Maximillian's avatar

I’m with you on on that one.

LostInParadise's avatar

Not to crash the lurve party, but it occurs to me that there is another way to think about this. In nature there is a high degree of mutual dependence. Bees pollinate and gather nectar from flowers. Predators cull and control the populations of prey. Since the use of agriculture, we have become remarkably isolated from the rest of nature, apart from pushing it aside. Other than a small number of domesticated plants and animals, the extinction of our species would be a net gain for the natural world.

Maximillian's avatar

@LostInParadise You might have a point. But one could argue that even if we did push items to extinction, the intelligence we have developed would, in (a long) time, would over come the obstacles and replace what we have lost. Maybe artificially, but we would. In fact, we ourselves could control prey population, and we could pollinate flowers ourselves. However, I don’t want it to come to that. I agree that a better balance between man and nature should exist, but I also say that we could handle it.

LostInParadise's avatar

I shudder to imagine the brave new world created in our image.

Pazza's avatar

Agree to a degree, but I do think its presumptuous to think that all animals other than humans are unable to, or don’t form thoughts beyond basic instincts. I think that still has to do with language and our ability to exchange thoughts and ideas, and to use language in such a way that we can combine the thoughts of many individuals all at once to ‘brainstorm’ if you like.

I personaly beleive that all life is an expression of conciousness, and that the universe is only conciousness, from that perspective, all life is one and connected.

So is the Earth here for us or vice-versa, I think its all us, and we are all it, since every atom thats makes up a human being came from this planet, we are only abusing ourselves. There I said it, I self abuse.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Earth is here; we’re here. There’s no “for” involved, as far as I can tell.

Answer this question




to answer.

Mobile | Desktop

Send Feedback