what do marxists think about the future

dougnielson at comcast.net dougnielson at comcast.net
Tue Sep 16 14:36:34 MDT 2003


I have to admit a lot of your responses are going over my head.  But I also have
a piece of previous writing to add to the hopper.

The top paragraph is a response from Howard Zinn on his webboard to an email
(slightly edited) I sent below. Please don't go to his
board looking for more because my follow up was truly wacko! Hey, I don't claim
any intellectual credentials beyond curiosity:

Topic:  Re: Human Destiny
Conf:  ZinnZine
From:  Howard Zinn hzinn at acs-mail.bu.edu
Date:  Friday, December 29, 2000 09:25 PM

Dear Doug:
I agree with you that it is pointless, as well as unscientific, to
postulate an end to life, to the human race, and that even if this is
estimated to take place millions of years in the future it represents a
dark, unnecessarily dark outlook. It is hard enough to predict events ten
years from now, let alone ten or a thousand millenia from now. It makes

sense to assume an ongoing human struggle for freedom and justice, in which
victory, if not assured, is at least possible.

Howardd


At 04:18 AM 12/29/00 -0800, you wrote:
From: "Doug Nielson"
Hello Howard,
...I imagine a future socialist society will still operate from the
principle that it is not enough to merely understand the world -- that the
point is to change it.
Therefor, I imagine our descendents will view such events as the
collapse of our solar system not as the natural end of life but as an
obstacle to be overcome.
Recently, I was heartened to hear the views of Freeman Dyson on the PBS
show, "Life Beyond Earth". Dyson's view may not come to pass, but
at least his approach is a lot more positive than Engels'.
Further below I have included a letter I recently sent to Skeptic Magazine:

>excerpt from "Life Beyond Earth", FREEMAN DYSON speculating on the
long-distance future:
"...Perhaps they long ago established a permanent network to link inhabited

planets and preserve a record of their histories. If so the first signal we
receive could come from an interstellar internet deployed over eons by
robotic space craft, such a network could bring libraries of information
within relatively close reach of emerging worlds like ours. Communication
can bridge time as well as space revealing the histories of societies that
disappeared long ago and offering clues to how our species might best
navigate its way toward the dim and distant future.

...Species generally speaking last a few million years. That's sort of
typical of a species and if that's true of our species, well that's fine.
We're in good shape for another million years or so and that would be
plenty of time for most people. However, the whole idea of species is sort
of fading away. As soon as you have genetic engineering and genes being
transferred from one species to another, which is already happening.

Question: But you think homo sapiens is abdicating or genetically re-engineering

themselves until they're unrecognizable?

Yes, I think that we shall probably become many different species if we
are species at all. In a time that's much shorter than these 2 million
years that they are talking about. There just a huge difference between 100
years and 1 million years. In a 100 years we will be the same as we are but
in a million years probably not.
We can imagine over billions of years intelligence has grown and developed
far beyond any sort of intelligence we now have and might in fact become a
major player in the physical development of the universe reorganizing
galaxies to move immense quantities of matter and radiation from one part
of the universe to another. We might in fact become creators in producing a
universe in which we can live forever. That's at least a dream, which is
not altogether pointless to think about.***


The following letter is in response to an article that appeared in Skeptic
Magazine vol. 8, No 2, 2000. It wasn't printed.


Re: The Meaning of Life by David Naiditch.
I learned a lot from the article, "The Meaning of Life" by David Naiditch,
but one thing bothered me. Is it really proven that human life must at some
point be extinguished? The immense distances between the stars used to be
given as proof of this. Oddly, once the space age began, the idea that the
entire universe would collapse became the more popular proof of our
ultimate extinction. This endpoint has in turn been undermined recently by
the discovery that the universe might inflate endlessly rather than end in
a big crunch.
Maybe it's time to stop taking the demise of our species as a given.
Unless one is able to completely describe the state of human science and
technology in, say, 2 billion years (not to mention the possible activity
of other intelligent life in the universe), one is not in a very good
position to predict the ultimate outcome of our contest with nature. Is it
scientific to assume beforehand that nothing in life's arsenal will ever

measure up to the complete inflation or deflation of the known universe
(whichever it ends up being)? Or is this mere pessimism raised to the level
of theory. Why is it so important to pronounce defeat against an obstacle
that has not yet even come completely into focus?
The problem with accepting life's ultimate demise as a given is that it
casts a shadow on the present. It may be a limited shadow for those who are
not "unbalanced" (to use the term in Naiditch's article), nevertheless, it
reinforces whatever feelings of hopelessness or fatalism people may have
about current circumstances. Are we in a contest to see who can swallow the
harshest conclusions the fastest while still maintaining their "balance"?
Removing ourselves from the center of our outlook on the future and looking
at reality primarily or solely from the perspective of inanimate matter is
not only unbalanced: it is inhuman. Nothing is more fundamental to life

than the struggle against death. When fatalism is considered scientific, it
is not surprising to see people turning to religion. If God doesn't have a
plan for us, are we not required to come up with one of our own? We may
need a few hundred million generations to come up with one, but assuming defeat
from the outset is not a good starting place.
-Doug
dougnielson at comcast.net


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