Sunday, September 7, 2008

Solving problems

The grandparents of the students entering college this year were born into a world of two billion people. When these students graduate in 2012 the Earth will contain seven billion human beings, and by 2050 there will be nine billion. All these people will need safe food, clean water, shelter, energy, health care and education while preventing catastrophic climate change, epidemic disease and global conflict. If we fail to solve these problems there is a high probability that our species will become extinct. We may have already exceeded the Earth’s carrying capacity for human beings, and if so it will likely be known within the lifetime of today’s students. What skills will they need to deal with these issues?

Solving problems requires genuine critical thinking. Science uses strict tests of reality based on evidence, while faith makes a virtue of non-critical thinking. Do we really expect to find solutions using a system that values belief in magic, a system based on sending telepathic wishes to an imaginary friend?

Accepting this is a very difficult process for most people. You must be willing to use your powers of reasoning and think for yourself. You must try to get past what your parents taught you, what peer pressure from your community is imposing on you, including the intense hatred that often comes from ‘people of faith’ whose beliefs are challenged. (People tend to get a bit nasty when you tell them they are in fact not going to live forever.) Ask yourself where 'faith' has gotten us so far, and what it is responsible for in the world today. We must put that behind us in order to cope with the problems that are already facing the world.

How can we acquire the skills we will need to solve what is probably the greatest challenge that has ever faced humanity? All reasoned comments are welcome.

1 comment:

psychprof said...

I couldn't agree more. Do you think there's any hope? It's so impossible to persuade religious people to use reason, and if you think whatever happens if god's will, what motivation do you have to really try to solve problems? god help us if our political leaders continue to be such idiots. psychprof