Derrick Jensen: Against Prometheus: On [Taker] Science, Population, Collapse, Genocide & Technology

* Challenge Civilization Blog: Conversation with Derrick Jensen: 1: Deep Green Resistance; 2: Formative Influences; 3: On [Taker] Science; 4: Population, Collapse & Genocide.
* Counterpunch (28 Oct 2009): Against Prometheus: An Interview with Derrick Jensen on Science and Technology.

Conversation with Derrick Jensen: Against Prometheus: On [Taker] Science, Population, Collapse, Genocide & Technology.

Challenge Civilization Blog, 03 Aug 2011 | Counterpunch, 28 Oct 2009




“According to scientific culture, power exists only in how you use raw materials — the more raw materials you use more effectively than anyone else, the more power to you. And science is a potent tool for that. Thats the point of science. .[..]. The very epistemology of this [Taker] culture is based upon domination; such that how we know something is true, is by someone’s ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command and to predict what will happen and when. .[..]. Are hammerhead sharks better off, because of science? Is plankton better off because of science? Are traditional people’s better off because of science? I think the answer is pretty obviously, NO. .[..]. Science is based upon the ability to predict and on objectification.”

“Here’s another perspective: If you ask ten thousand scientists if they believe the world was created for human beings, and all evolution existed so that human beings are the apex of evolution. The vast majority of them would probably say ‘absolutely not’. Evolution has no point that way. Humans are not the apex of evolution. Its an absurd question and allot of them would laugh. But then when they are done laughing and they go back to work, what would they be doing? If you judge their answers by their actions, instead of by their theory, what you would find is essentially that all of them are working to make the world conform to industrial ends. Science is pernicious, its really harmful and it has been incredibly harmful to the natural world.”

“Science is the latest monotheism really. Catholicism said that outside the church there is no salvation, and science says that outside of science there is no knowledge. Another way to put all this is that monotheism has been the problem. Abrahamaic monotheisms, Christianity, Catholicism and Islam did the heavy lifting. They took the divinity out of nature and put it in heaven. They took the divinity out of this tree, and this dog and this flesh, and to put it somewhere out there. All science did was come along, much later, and turn off the light out there, and remove meaning from the world entirely. You don’t have to take my word for this. Once again Richard Dawkins is quite clear that the universe is meaningless. But he also says that we are put here to rise above nature, which is an extraordinary statement because why would you rise up out of something, and who put us here in the first place, when he doesn’t believe in any meaning whatsoever. But anyway, science is on the main incredibly harmful. Sure science is able to record that global warming is happening, and sure they are able to study species extinction, but why is global warming and species extinction happening in the first place? .[..]. It doesn’t help to study it, unless you stop it. .[..]. Catherine McKinnon says that law is how power organizes. I would say that science is the manual version of that. Law is how power organizes politically and science is how it organizes in physically. And there are other forms of knowledge that are not based on domination, but on relationship, non-mathematical relationship.”

“The stories we are told shape the way we see the world, which shapes the way we experience the world. R.D. Laing once wrote that how we experience the world shapes how we behave in the world. If the world is presented as resources to be exploited, then more than likely, you’re going to exploit the world. For example, if one sees trees as dollar bills, then one will look at trees and treat trees one way; if one sees trees as trees, for what they are – as other beings to be in communion with – then one will see them and treat them another way. Philosophy is the telling of the world a certain way.”

Taker Utilitarian vs. Leaver Spiritual Relationship to Nature:

“If you do not perceive the fundamental beingness of others (i.e. nonhuman animals, trees, mountains, rivers, rocks, etc), or in some senses do not even perceive their existence, then nothing I say or write can convince you. Nor will evidence be likely to convince you, since, as already mentioned, you won’t perceive it, or more accurately, won’t allow yourself to perceive it. No matter how well I write, if you have never made love, I cannot adequately describe to you what it feels like to do so. Even more so, if you insist that no such thing as making love even exists, then I will certainly never be able to adequately explain to you what it feels like. For that matter, I cannot describe the color green to someone who is blind, and who even more so insists that green does not exist, could never exist; as well as to someone who knows that philosophers from Aristotle to Descartes to Dawkins have conclusively shown that green does not exist, could not exist, has never existed, and will never exist; or to someone who is under the thrall of economic and legal systems (insofar as there is a meaningful difference, since the primary function of this culture’s legal systems is to protect—through laws, police, courts, and prisons—the exploitative activities of the already-wealthy) based so profoundly on green not existing; who cannot acknowledge that this culture would collapse if its members individually and/or collectively perceived this green that cannot be allowed to exist. If I could describe the color green to you, I would do it. I would drive you, as R.D. Laing put it, out of your wretched mind. And you might be able to see the color green.  Or someone else could drive you out of your wretched mind. It certainly needn’t be me. I’m not the point. You’re not the point. Your perceived experience isn’t even the point. The point is your wretched mind, and getting out of it. And beyond that, the point then is your experience.”

Leaver’s experience the world personally, emotionally, convivially and reciprocally with other beings, Takers experience the world as a set of objective truths for personal material gain or information, or as protocol to maintain the status quo:

“This culture is based on the assumption that all of the world is without volition, is mechanistic, and is therefore predictable. The existence of the willfully unpredictable destroys a foundational assumption of this culture. The existence of the willfully unpredictable also invalidates this culture’s ontology, epistemology, and philosophies, and reveals them for what they are: lies upon which to base this omnicidal system of exploitation, theft, and murder; it’s much easier to exploit, steal from, or murder someone you pretend has no meaningful existence (especially if you have an entire culture’s ontology, epistemology, and philosophy to back you up), indeed, it becomes your right, even your duty (e.g. war, genocide, death squads, mercenaries, etc). The existence of the willfully unpredictable reveals this culture’s governmental and economic systems for what they are as well: means to not only rationalize but enforce systems of exploitation, theft, and murder (e.g., effectively stop Monsanto’s exploitation, theft, and murder, and see how you are treated by governments across the world).”

Difference between indigenous spirituality’s kinship with nonhumans, and absence of a utilitarian worldview over their landbase insofar as they perceived the natural landscape as a matrix of reciprocal relationships to enter into:

“In all of my books I’ve emphasized that the fundamental difference between civilized and indigenous ways of being is that for even the most open-minded of the civilized, listening to the natural world is a metaphor. For traditional indigenous peoples it is not a metaphor. It is how you relate with the real world. This culture’s way of life is based on exploitation, domination, theft, and murder. And why? Because it is based on the perceived right of the powerful to take whatever resources they want. If you see yourself as entitled to a resource, and if you’re not willing or incapable of seeing this other as a being with whom you can and should be in relation with, then you’re going to take the resource.”

How scientific philosophy galvanizes the exploitative utilitarian worldview:

“Richard Dawkins, the popular scientific philosopher—he’s got almost as many Google hits as Mick fuckin’ Jagger—states that we exist in “a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication.” Implying that humans are the only meaningful intelligence on earth, and possibly in the universe, the world then consists of objects to be exploited, not other beings to enter into relationship with. Dawkins also writes: “You won’t find any rhyme or reason in it [the universe], nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” Because the latter scientific assumption posits that nonhumans have no meaningful intelligence, they have nothing to say, to each other or to us. Thus interspecies communication is bunk, no matter who the nonhumans are: animals, plants, rivers, rocks, stars, muses, and so on. Anyone who thinks otherwise, and this is key, is superstitious, that is, delusional, maybe primitive, maybe crazy, maybe childish, maybe just plain stupid. Suddenly science has a stronger hold on one’s belief moreso than any religion. Scientific philosophy is much better at controlling people because if you don’t buy into it, you’re stupid. The fundamental religion of this culture is that of human dominion, and it does not matter so much whether one self-identifies as a Christian, a Capitalist, a Scientist, or just a regular member of this culture, one’s actions will be to promulgate this fundamentalist religion of unbridled entitlement and exploitation. This religion permeates every aspect of this culture.”

Has science provided the world with anything good?:

“That’s a very common question that is asked: Hasn’t science done a lot of good for the world? For the world? No. Show me how the world—the real, physical world, once filled with passenger pigeons, great auks, cod, tuna, salmon, sea mink, lions, great apes, migratory songbirds, forests—is a better place because of science. Science has done far more than facilitate the destruction of the natural world: it has increased this culture’s ability to destroy by many orders of magnitude. We can talk all we want about conservation biology and about the use of science to measure biodiversity, but in the real, physical world the real, physical effects of science on real, living nonhumans has been nothing short of atrocious. Science has been given three hundred years or so to prove itself. And of course three hundred years ago great auks (and fish, and whales) filled the seas, and passenger pigeons and Eskimo curlews filled the skies, and soil was deeper, and native forests still stood. If three hundred years of chainsaws, CFCs, depleted uranium, automobiles, genetic engineering, airplanes, routine international trade, computers, plastics, endocrine disrupters, pesticides, vivisection, internal combustion engines, fellerbunchers, dragline excavators, televisions, cellphones, and nuclear (and conventional) bombs are not enough to convey the picture, then that picture will never be conveyed.”

Without science, there would not be ten times more plastic than phytoplankton in the oceans. The Nazi Holocaust was, as I made clear in The Culture of Make Believe, and as Zygmunt Bauman made clear in Modernity and the Holocaust, a triumph of the modern industrial rationalistic scientific instrumentalist perspective. Global warming, which may end in planetary murder, would not be running rampant without the assistance of science and scientists. Without science there would be no hole in the ozone. Without science and scientists, we would not face the threat of nuclear annihilation. Without science, there would be no industrial civilization, which even without global warming would still be leading to planetary murder. Sure, science brought us television, modern medicine (and modern diseases), and cardboard-tasting strawberries in January, but anyone who would rather have those than a living planet is, well, a typical member of this culture. If it’s the case that evolution happened so that we would come to exist, then it’s pretty damn obvious we’re fucking up whatever we were brought into being to do. How much sense would it make to have all of this evolution take place simply so that the point, the apex, the pinnacle of this evolution can end life on the planet? Talk about the world’s longest and stupidest shaggy dog story.”