For the record, by the way, anyone who responds to urgent requests to modify their behaviour (and by so doing help to avert catastrophic climate change) with that rubbish by Carl Sagan is a point-missing, privileged, footling buffoon. Evolution proper would involve letting them be chased and eventually devoured by wolves.
Imagine you’re in the middle of taking apart your car. You’ve had trouble with the oil-pump sensors for ages, and the garages can’t find the problem because it only ever happens when the car’s been running hot. But you’ve found some sources on the internet and your neighbour has offered to lend a hand and some tools, and as you’re doing the fixing-up and headscratching another neighbour comes and gives you a hand and chews the fat a bit.
You’re all trying to work out precisely how to detach a particularly recalcitrant nut from the bolt on your big end or whatever, when some smug tosser comes along and says “I don’t know why you’re bothering trying to work out how to fix your car. After all, we’ll all be out-evolved some time.” It’d take all your love for your fellow man not to take a spanner to him, thus bringing the Saganist Eschaton one no-longer animated meat-vat closer.
How disengaged from the nub of the debate do you have to be to claim that that’s useful? Can’t you just not bother to contribute, if you so desire to not usefully contribute, or do you really have to show us all precisely how easily you can throw your toys out of the pram while claiming that Dada made you do it?
I think what annoys me most about it is that: it’s not just a fundamental lack of empathy and unwillingness to engage with complex social problems disguised by shallow adolescent posturing as a Zen-like philosophical distance attained through years of deep thought; it’s a fundamental lack of empathy and unwillingness to engage with complex problems lazily disguised by shallow adolescent posturing as a Zen-like philosophical stance attained through years of deep thought.
“I could try to read all this stuff about why I have to change my lifestyle to stop billions of people dying and hundreds and thousands or possibly millions already suffering because of my selfish actions, or—hey! Something nihilist and pithy but clever-sounding by some science fiction guy! Completely coincidentally, I’ve read him and also I wear black T-shirts. I can quote that without reading anything else and justify the weaknesses of character I deny even to myself. FTW!”
This is the apathetic attitude of the sort of Christian that Dawkins thinks appear in multitudes under his bed whenever he turns the lights off—avoiding helping the poor, or refusing their children blood transfusions, in the face of God’s will and with the promise of eternal bliss in the next life—only without God to back it up. It’s pathetic. If Sagan, or Ayer, or Rand said it, then it might well sound rather juicy as you roll it round your keyboard. The right quote, in fact, might well be deployed as a sort of rhetorical nuclear warhead, capable of smashing up any serious debate you come across. But any idiot with the Anarchist’s Cookbook can blow himself and other people up. More effort and research is needed if you’re going to lay foundations, or put up shelves, or just plain offer a hand.
Now shut your fat head and help me with this bolt. This stuff needs fixing sharpish.