A Philosopher's Blog

The Nader Dilemma

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on February 25, 2008

Rumor has it that Ralph Nader plans to run for President once again. As most people will recall, Nader is often credited with keeping Al Gore out of the White House by “stealing” away votes that would have otherwise gone to Gore. Naturally enough, many conservatives are pleased that Nader is running. They know that although he might cost McCain a few votes, he is more likely to pull votes away from the Democrat’s candidate.

The Nader situation presents something of a dilemma.

On one hand, there is good reason to think Nader should run. By doing so, he provides a third party candidate and brings a greater degree of choice to the election. America has long had a two party system, thus leading to a feeble joke I recall from my undergraduate days:

Q: What’s the difference between Soviet and American politics?
A: One party and one candidate.

For those who grew up in a post Soviet world: the Soviets had a one party system in which everyone up for “election” was a communist and there was only one candidate per office.

While some independents do get elected from time to time, the United States is effectively a two party and two candidate country when it comes to many elections. You can pick anyone you want…just as long as s/he is a Democrat or a Republican.

It is ridiculous to believe that even most Americans fall neatly into one or the other parties in terms of their political views. As such, the two party system does not really provide Americans with a proper range of choices and representation. As such, having more alternatives seems desirable.

Obviously, building an effective party takes time (and money). Nader and any other third (or 4th) party candidate will certainly not win the upcoming election or any Presidential election for quite some time. But, without that building up period, there can be no viable 3rd (or 4th or 5th) party. Hence, it could be concluded that Nader should run.

On the other hand, since Nader has no chance of winning perhaps he should not run. By running, he will no doubt be pulling votes away from the Democratic candidate and thus aiding the Republican candidate. Thus, by voting for Nader, people are more likely to help McCain get into office-something his supporters would presumably oppose. After all, Nader’s views are generally closest to the Democrat’s party line. Thus, ironically, by voting for what they believe in they could end up helping put someone in office they disagree with. Of course, the Republicans will probably think Nader should run-for exactly these reasons.

Pre-Human Civilizations

Posted in Science by Michael LaBossiere on February 25, 2008

A while ago I saw the History Channels interesting show on Life After People. I had also read articles on the subject of what would happen to our buildings and works after our time came to an end.

Interestingly, the remains of our civilization would be almost completely eradicated in about 50,000 years. While this seems like a long time, when compared with the estimated age of the earth (4 billion years give or take a few million) and even the origins of our own species (3-6 million years) it is but a blink in time.

Since I like science fiction, I started thinking about what another intelligent species would find if they were to come to earth after our fall. Then I started thinking about whether or not it is possible that we are not the first intelligent species to arise on earth.

Since we are here, we know that intelligent species can arise here. We also know that intelligent species can go extinct. After all, the Neanderthals were apparently quite close to us in capabilities and they passed from the stage of history. So, the idea that a pre-human race could arise and fall is not an impossibility.The fact that the earth has had billions of years to produce such a species also is a point in favor of the hypothesis that it could have happened before.

The obvious problem is, laying aside various conspiracy theories about government cover ups, that no evidence exists of any pre-human intelligent species. As such, claims about the existence of such a species would be pure speculation. However, the lack of evidence for such a species is not conclusion evidence against the claim that there was such a species.

First, consider the fossil record. We as of yet have no fossils that suggest the existence of a pre-human intelligent species. However, intelligent beings are generally good at avoiding situations that tend to produce fossils. Further, such fossils might have existed or might even exist now. We have hardly explored the earth thoroughly enough to be able to claim we have a complete picture of the past. In those gaps in our knowledge might exist a space for an intelligent species.

Second, consider the ruins. We have been able to dig up the ruins of ancient Troy and even much older settlements. It could be argued that if an intelligent race had existed before us, we would find the remains of their civilization. This is a reasonable concern and, obviously, without such evidence the claim that such a species existed would be unsupported. But, given how quickly the evidence of our own civilization would vanish, there is reason to think that such a species could have risen and fallen. Their buildings and works (assuming they were like us in this regard) could have long crumbled to unrecognizable dust.

Naturally, my claim is not that such a species did exist. My claim is much weaker-the evidence is such that such a species could have existed. Sadly, it seems likely that even if they did exist, then their story shall never be known to us or anyone else. Someday, perhaps, long after the end of humanity, some other species will be asking the same questions and wondering if anyone came before them.