中文 English

About Science, Happiness, Thinkers and the Future of Human Beings

(From Feng Xuerong’s blog on March 23, 2009)

Feng Xuerong

The Biggest Problem can be rated as an amazing book in which the author Hu Jiaqi mainly points out that the day will finally come when there will be one-time ultimate destructive weapons if human beings continue to develop science and technology with a loose rein. Once such weapons fall into the hands of desperadoes, mankind will definitely be on its way to extinction. Thus, the author appeals to the whole world for establishing a united government to suspend scientific research in order to save human beings from an abyss of suffering.

Please visit his website: www.hujiaqi.com 

I would like to offer a few commonplace remarks on several major points of his book, hoping to induce others to put forward more valuable opinions.

Who are happier, ancient people or modern people?

Mr. Hu called on people to suspend the development of science and technology. One of his arguments is: With the help of science and technology, modern people are enjoying material life unprecedented in history; however, in terms of the ultimate value of life—happiness, modern people feel even less happy than cavemen.

I admire Mr. Hu very much, but really, I dare not say I agree to his argument. In ancient times, there were high rates of child and maternal mortality, low medical conditions, constant homicide for property and spouse, and they also had to face against beast, flood, severe cold, food shortage… this kind of life…I am afraid that it is greatly questionable to insist on saying the ancient people are happy.

Who lived more happily actually, ancient people or modern people? To be rigorous, I am afraid that it is a controversial question. Did ancient people feel happy? How happy were they? Perhaps only they themselves knew it. But the dead cannot give witness, and there is no way to scientifically measure the ancient life. So it is totally incommensurable.

In order to get some clue, we can only find little traces in old books to have a limited view of it. However, it is disappointing that in the vastness of the ancient books, compared to the carnal pleasure such as "spitting the red thread on her sweetheart" described by Li Yu (Emperor Li in the South Tang Dynasty) in his Bin of Pearls, the startling misery and suffering of living creatures were easier to find in The Officers at Shi Hao, The Snake Catcher, and The Old Charcoal Seller.

I often recall a poor orphan whose story was copied from an ancient book by Bo Yang. The orphan's parents died in war. He crept to the outskirts of the city crying his heart out, ate feces when he became too hungry and died after a few days. As a father, I am terribly afraid of imagining the miserable scene: in the turbulent dust, the child had not a shred of clothing on his back, his little suffering face…ate feces because he was too hungry…soon, died with everlasting regret…

I deeply agree that man's fate in troubled times is worse than that of straw dogs used for sacrifice.

Therefore, please allow me to make a few amendments:“The ancient people were not living in happiness.” Though modern science and technology has solved many sufferings of modern people, the desire of human beings is limitless, and they are not happy, either. This is probably a more realistic judgment.

Is there any need to suspend scientific research? Have we overdone in righting the wrong?

Mr. Hu believes that the technical capacity of human beings to make weapons has stepped on an accelerated orbit. If the scientific research is not suspended as soon as possible, a one-time destructive weapon will be invented sooner or later. And mankind will be in extreme danger if the weapon falls into the desperado's hands.

It is undeniable that Mr. Hu's worry is necessary. This is possible, even in the near future.

In spite of this, it seems too arbitrary to terminate scientific research for a reason like this. I think we should make a different treatment between beneficial and harmful scientific endeavors. The beneficial ones should go on developing, for example, cure for cancer and AIDS, higher-yielding crop research, etc. The harmful ones should be suspended as soon as possible, such as research of nuclear power, chemical and biological weapons, etc. From Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons and Convention on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons we can see that mankind has already set about doing the job, but Mr. Hu's worry is of practical significance. Currently the world is the competitive society which is composed of each of all countries. These conventions cannot be performed thoroughly until a world government appears.

However, I don't know if Mr. Hu has thought this through: even if there is a unified world government, a few extremists can also hide in unknown corners researching and developing destructive weapons if they want to exterminate the human beings.

There are always risks for people who live in this world - like every time we go out we are faced with the risk of being killed by a falling brick on our head — risk is inevitable.

The world government is far beyond reach.

Unfortunately, mankind is a very selfish creature, and it is too early to start talking about a world government. The key point is that the present level of human civilization progression is far from building a unified world government.

Biologists observed how the ant ethnic groups live their life, and found their ability in unification and cooperation is much higher than that of mankind. Well, compared to the ants, mankind is actually a fairly stupid creature. We clearly know the world government absolutely has many more advantages than disadvantages, but we choose to ignore it for the expediency of our own countries and nations. This is the reality.

Looking back into history, there are usually two reasons for the unification of over two countries and regions:

1) A nation can develop from secession to unification, for instance, many times of unification in Chinese history, German unification led by Bismarck, unification of EU… This kind of unification needs strong mutual recognition among groups. Without it, the unification would be a castle in the air. It can not be set up.

2) Foreign conquest existed ever, such as Nazi Germany's unification for Austria and the old Japan's interference in North Korea and Taiwan. It is contrary to the value of modern human beings. It can not be used now.

I think there is no realistic possibility now for a unified world government. The biggest problem is that at present, there lacks enough mutual identification in color, language, race, culture and value among various countries and ethnic groups. It is not possible to build a unified world government on such a basis.

Though a unified world government can be more helpful in defense of human extinction, mankind is a kind of creature that has a fluke mind and doesn't shed tears until it sees the coffin. Plus, due to the stupidity of most people of the world and obstructions from some people of vested interests, it is by no means easy to build a unified world government.

What do thinkers do?

Mr. Hu has also seen the great difficulties, so he "appeals for giants" at the end of the book. A unified world government is beneficial to the survival and development of human beings from generation to generation. And such a great cause needs the appearance of “giants, great thinkers and statesmen.”

I agree with Mr. Hu, but I further consider: mankind needs not only to call on one giant, but a large number of giants…and even this is far from enough. A unified world government must be established on the basis of world citizens with considerable intelligence, moral quality and rational spirits. The "mass basis” like this is much more important than one or two groups of giants.

Certainly such "mass basis” does not exist now.

The western philosophy says: “The so-called human being, is just a behemoth.”

The function of thinkers is like this: thinkers do not work or produce materials, but their work makes people not only satisfied with the richness of materials, but also make more efforts for social progressfrom forest to law, from autocracy to democracy, from savageness to reason…each progress of human society can't do without thinkers' enlightening the public and inspiring and promoting the decision makers…this is the function of thinkers. It is invisible and impalpable, but really exists. In this sense, Mr. Hu's research is clearly of positive significance. I hope there are more thinkers like him who come up to constantly enlighten the behemoth of “people”. Mankind can only be saved in this way.

For the sake of this moment, we can only pray that God will bless mankind — the group of self-righteous animals.