I’m not a big fan of the human intellect. In fact I think one of the most obvious points in science – too rarely addressed – is how inadequately evolution has prepared us for the challenges of modern technological times. A simple example is the fact many of us eat too much, and die early from diseases that we’d rarely get if we maintained a healthy lifestyle of modest calorie intake and modest exercise.
Every year *billions* of life years are lost simply due to minor deviations from our evolutionary designed healthy lifestyle recipe. This is not to suggest that recipe of modest calorie intake + modest exercise is a health panacea, but those two factors dwarf most others in the developed world. Poor countries, on the other hand, suffer more from *too few” calories and vices like smoking, war, and poor health standards. In fact it is in this arena where humanity could have a stunning impact on raising the standard of living for about a billion people with a modest investments in health, water, and infrastructure.
Yet a combination of dictatorial regimes, inept bureaucracies, human ignorance among the victims, and widespread indifference from the affluent countries condemns an extraordinary number of people to a lifetime of relatively poor health and poverty.
What does this have to do with the illusion of relevance? I think one aspect of our intellectual inadequacy is that we often assign importance to the wrong things. Why is the death of Michael Jackson so much more interesting to so many than the deaths of some 125,000 children that have happened since Jackson’s untimely demise? Every week sees hundreds of thousands die – often painfully and miserably – from diseases like malaria, rotoviruses, and malnutrition that are all easily preventable at relatively low cost. This is NOT to suggest the people dying do not have responsibilities here – they do and I think a key component of bringing higher global health standards is to treat parents in the third world more harshly when they ignore the needs of their children in favor of their own bad habits and bad decisions. Political correctness prevents using some marketing tactics that might prove effective in combating the profound, pervasive ignorance that often creates irrational aversion to great programs like vaccinations, health, condoms, schooling for girls, and other standard western rights that are currently beyond the grasp of so many in the developing world.
The tragic circumstances of the third world are not generally our *fault* as suggested by the naive who fail to see that it is the *lack of US participation*, not the presence of it, that has condemned so many poor economies to failure.
Still, solving these problems remains a large part of our *responsibility* as global citizens. Partly due to the moral imperatives that are a product of the worldview most of us share but I think more importantly simply because we *can* solve these problems if we can extract ourselves from the foolish concerns that plague so many otherwise intelligent people.
More importantly, solving these problems requires us to dispense with the illusion of relevance about so many topics that have so little meaning to the collective humanity. Britney Spears news vs Clean water for a billion people news.