On one poignantly beautiful autumn day in Syracuse, a group of us physics graduate students were gathered around a frugal kitchen table. We had our brilliant professor, Lee Smolin, talking to us. We held our promising mentors in very high regard. And we had high hopes for Lee.
The topic of conversation on that day was a bit philosophical, and we were eagerly absorbing the words of wisdom emanating from Lee. He was describing to us how the Earth could be considered a living organism. Using insightful arguments and precisely modulated glib articulation (毫无疑问, forged by years of intellectual duels in world’s best universities), Lee made a compelling case that the Earth, 事实上, satisfied all the conditions of being an organism.
Lee Smolin, 顺便说说, lived up to our great expectations in later years, publishing highly acclaimed books and generally leaving a glorious imprint in the world of modern physics. He now talks to global audiences through prestigious programmes such as the BBC Hardtalk, much to our pride and joy.
The point in Lee’s view was not so much whether or the Earth was literally alive, but that thinking of it as an organism was a viable intellectual model to represent the Earth. Such intellectual acrobatics was not uncommon among us physics students.
In the last few years, Lee has actually taken this mode of thinking much farther in one of his books, picturing the universe in the light of evolution. 同样, the argument is not to be taken literally, imagining a bunch of parallel universes vying for survival. The idea is to let the mode of thinking carry us forward and guide our thoughts, and see what conclusions we can draw from the thought exercise.
A similar mode of thinking was introduced in the movie Matrix. 事实上, several profound models were introduced in that movie, which probably fuelled its wild box-office success. One misanthropic model that the computer agent Smith proposes is that human beings are a virus on our planet.
It is okay for the bad guy in a movie to suggest it, but an entirely different matter for newspaper columnist to do so. But bear with me as I combine Lee’s notion of the Earth being an organism and Agent Smith’s suggestion of us being a virus on it. Let’s see where it takes us.
The first thing a virus does when it invades an organism is to flourish using the genetic material of the host body. The virus does it with little regard for the well-being of the host. On our part, we humans plunder the raw material from our host planet with such abandon that the similarity is hard to miss.
But the similarity doesn’t end there. What are the typical symptoms of a viral infection on the host? One symptom is a bout of fever. 同样, due to our activities on our host planet, we are going through a bout of global warming. Eerily similar, 在我看来.
The viral symptoms could extend to sores and blisters as well. Comparing the cities and other eye sores that we proudly create to pristine forests and natural landscapes, it is not hard to imagine that we are indeed inflicting fetid atrocities to our host Earth. Can’t we see the city sewers and the polluted air as the stinking, oozing ulcers on its body?
Going one step further, could we also imagine that natural calamities such as Katrina and the Asian tsunami are the planet’s natural immune systems kicking into high gear?
I know that it is supremely cynical to push this comparison to these extreme limits. Looking at the innocent faces of your loved ones, you may feel rightfully angry at this comparison. How dare I call them an evil virus? 然后再, if a virus could think, would it think of its activities on a host body as evil?
If that doesn’t assuage your sense of indignation, 记住，这个病毒比喻思维，而不是字面起诉书模式. 这种思维模式仅有用的，如果能得到一些结论. 什么是从这个人比较病毒的结论?
病毒感染的最终结果总是阴沉. 无论是主机屈从或病毒得到由宿主的免疫系统遭到殴打. 如果是病毒, 这两个不测都难吃. 我们不想杀死地球. 我们当然不希望被地球被消灭. 但这些都是我们的病毒样活性的这里的唯一可能的结果. 这是不可能的，我们会得到剿灭; 我们对此过于复杂. 在所有的可能性, 我们将尽我们的地球无法居住. 我们可能, by then, 有我们迁移到其他行星系统的技术手段. 换句话说, 如果我们是幸运的, 我们可能会传染! 这是这种智力练习的不可避免的结论.
有一个不太可能的情况 — 在宿主体内共生病毒的存在. 这是一种良性的生活方式戈尔和其他人推荐我们. 但, 在这个星球上采取我们的活动股票, 我的世界末日的看法是，它是一个和平共生为时已晚. 你有什么感想?