An intricate web connects us to myriad people, places and things.
Erase all those connections: how much of you is left?

Individuals can be very misguided.
So can societies.
Individuals can go mad.
So can societies.

Think free.
If the population of the earth were to double every 100 years,
in roughly 4000 years all the mass of the earth would be people.

It is physically impossible for this to happen.
Things will occur to prevent it.
That is certain.
In the USA there are presently three dominant political parties:
Democratic, Republican, Fascistic.
The latter is a political party in every nation on earth,
and has been throughout history.
It hovers like disease in the background,
awaiting a weakened immune system.
It is generally fatal.
Under the heading of things we should not be surprised at:
Any group in an organization that produces something praiseworthy
will find near the end of their efforts
that non-participants of whom they may never have heard
have positioned themselves to receive the praise
at the expense of those whose efforts generated the praise.
Let's suppose a god or gods created the world and all that's in it a few thousand years ago, and that chimpanzee DNA is as close to human DNA as it is because the gods were simply being efficient with the tools at hand. We now know enough about sociology, biology, chemistry, atomic and quantum physics, and mathematics, to be quite certain that from this point onward mutations are inevitable from generation to generation. No one alive today, save perhaps identical twins, has the same genome as anyone else alive, or who has ever lived. The odds are just too small. Consequently the human population now is different genetically than it was at the time of its purported inception, and mutations will ensure that as time goes on the overall difference will increase. This genetic drift away from where we were is evolution. It's not as dramatic as it can be, but over aeons the odds are it will be dramatic indeed. Our science, which is used to run nuclear power plants, make iPhones, allows us to develop mutated bacteria that can release disease fighting chemicals, and helps us understand the origin of genetic diseases, implies with a probability of essentially 1 (100% certainty) that from this day onward the human genome, and the genomes of all species, will evolve. For myself, the evidence is overwhelming that today is not the first day evolving will occur, and that it started billions of years ago with the beginnings of life. But it doesn't matter. Even if humans were created by god(s) a few thousand years ago, evolution as a process is still a fact. We can make it happen in the laboratory.

[Note added]

The science of life's origins contains many unanswered questions. For those opposed to the idea that life arose without the aid of a deity, every unanswered question is evidence for their viewpoint. The problem with this is that science does not stand still. Throughout history science has been solving the riddles of phenomena whose source had at one time been ascribed to a deity or deities. But none of this matters. Even if all questions are eventually answered, and we come to understand the series of events that needed to occur to give rise to cellular life, it is still possible to ascribe this to a deity. For whatever reason, be it the existence of an actual deity, or that tendency to faith in deities gives individuals/societies survival benefits, we will never ever be without those carrying such faith, and they will always be in the majority. Still, it should be possible to develop an educational curriculum that explains the divergence of the finches of the Galapagos from a biochemical point of view that allows for religious addenda (taught in a separate venue) to posit such scientific explanations as evidence for the subtlety of a deity or deities. While I myself believe that science is sufficient, I of course can not prove it - which reminds me of a Steve Martin routine ... "What if you died, and you woke up, and you were in heaven? Just like they always told you? Everybody had wings on, and pearly gates...wouldn't you feel stupid? 'Oh nooo! You mean that this is what...Awww. In college they said this was all bullshit.' "
Catastrophe theory is a branch of mathematics concerned with dynamic systems that change from one state to another without bothering with the smooth continuous occupation of intervening states. A frequently proffered example is a twisting rubber band. Anyone who has ever wound the propeller of a rubber band powered model airplane knows that as stress builds up in the band due to twisting, there will come a time when the rubber band goes from unknotted to knotted. This change of state does not happen gradually: there is no knot; then suddenly there is a knot. This is what you want in this instance, so the word 'catastrophe' in mathematics implies no value judgment.

However, in the real world catastrophic changes of state can also be catastrophic in a non-mathematical sense. I recently attended a talk about the 2008 economic crisis. I am not an economist, but a graph was shown of the S&P 500 Index Level, and the High Yield Bond Spread, over the time from January 2007 to January 2009. In a healthy economy the former graph is evidently supposed to wiggle its way through time about twice the value of the latter. At the end of 2007 this changed to some extent (rubber band twisting). In the first half of 2008 there was a more marked change (more twisting, meaning in this case more stress on the economy), but not being an economist (although being one we now see is clearly no key to understanding), this section of the graph did not look like it was a cause for concern. In late September the two plots suddenly, and catastrophically (in all senses of the word) switched positions, with the Bond Spread taking the high road, and the S&P dropping to the low road (rubber band knotted).

At this point, we were told, by people who ought to have seen this coming, that the global economy had been shaken to its core and was on the point of a very serious meltdown. Steps had to be taken by governments to shore things up, and bail the venally culpable out of the mess they'd created. The governments and other entities involved in these bailouts are rather like the hands of gods, and the average individual can only hope these gods know what they're doing.

But this screed is not about the economy, it is about catastrophes and the environment. The economy simply offers a vivid example, that anyone reading this can now comprehend to some extent, of what can happen to a complex system when it is stressed, and no effort is made to prevent further stress. As has been pointed out by numerous pundits, there are many ways in which our environment can undergo a catastrophic change of state that may cause cascading alterations to our global climate, global ecosystem, and global economy (which, of course, will spark unrest, conflict, and all the rest of the lovely things people get up to when they lose hope). If these changes are large enough, no governments will have the ability to bail us out. No, in that case we will need real gods, and I wouldn't advise holding your breath waiting for that one. We can not bail out our planet.

The global environment is extremely complex, and certainly more complex than the rabid outpourings of most of those on both sides of the debate as to the origins of climate change (anthropogenic or not - but there are many other forms of environmental degradation that are clearly anthropogenic, and it is suspicious how many of those who deny our part in global warming have an association with the oil/coal industries and/or monster truck rallies and their ilk).

Personally I believe population growth is the principal source of stress on our planet. There has to be a rough number N of people the planet can possibly (and peacefully and cleanly) support. So, let's just consider some the ways the planet will prevent its population from reaching N+1, or 2N:
  • we do it ourselves rationally and peacefully;
  • we do it ourselves violently;
  • nature lends a hand with catastrophic environmental change;
  • nature lends a hand with disease and starvation;
  • nature lends a hand with a big rock or chunk of ice from space;
  • a combination of these and other means foreseeable and not.
One of these things is not like the others - one is preferable. But keep in mind, our problems are encoded in our DNA.

Well, that's a happy thought.
For thirty years or so String Theory has dominated many of the best minds and most of the funding in theoretical physics. And according to Brian Greene, writing in Wired magazine, String Theory has at last succeeded - in fact, if I am interpreting what he wrote correctly, it succeeded some 30 odd years ago, and since then has become, with each year of hope-filled failure since, an ever more refulgent success. You see, according to Greene, any theoretical pursuit, in succeeding, actually fails, for this science is not about goals, but about journeys. Achieving the former is "comforting", but it is the "endless chaotic dance" of fruitless research that makes the "life of exploration worth living". String theory, in no longer having any hope of ultimate success, and, better still, there evidently being no way of ultimately proving it wrong, deserves to be funded in perpetuity, as long as our civilization and its funding agencies should survive.

** Tip of the Day **
Think like a sheep;
expect sheep-like accomplishments.
Dogmatic faith, whether religious, cultural, or intellectual,
is open to but one appeal: become one with the body.
The collective is a complex system, a living memetic entity
whose power increases with its numbers, so maintaining and
augmenting those numbers becomes of great importance.
In being a spiritual person you do not find common ground
with the committed Catholic, Evangelical or Muslim.
In being an intellectual and/or physicist you do not
find common ground with the string theorist -
unless, of course, you join.
Be absorbed,

There's your common ground.

If you go into a gold mine in an obsessive search for oil,
you are not likely to find either.