« Thinking about the Unthinkable | Main | The Cognitive Roots of Endless War »

August 24, 2008

Science and Population; a troubling relationship

Cognitive powers are to humans what teeth and claws are to other predators, or speed and quick reflexes to prey animals: their main survival tools in a universe that’s been increasingly revealed by Science to be vast, impersonal, and essentially timeless. Given the relatively recent origins of our species, the technology miracles our scientific skills have been producing, and our recent narrow escape from nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War, one might have expected our contemporary world to be happier and more optimistic.

But that would obviously be a mistake; although most commentators are suitably circumspect, the pessimism abroad in today’s world is impossible to miss; after all, diminished confidence in the future is a not unreasonable response to continued uncertainty about abrupt climate change, the stability of global petroleum markets, a looming threat of global water scarcity, and the increasing disparity between wealth and poverty. That’s particularly so as the violent response to that disparity becomes ever more institutionalized as a US-led transnational “war on terror.”

Against that backdrop, it’s worth remembering that our population quadrupled in the Twentieth Century, it's still growing, and the mere consideration of dire possibilities can be so unpleasant that many humans avoid thinking about them at all. The generic term for such avoidance is denial; its practice by world leaders may havs never been more blatant than it is today.

In that context, while my criticisms of cannabis prohibition are evidence based, the rising confidence with which I assert them is based almost entirely on the refusal of those with an avowed interest in drug policy to admit, or even discuss, certain key issues such as the efficacy of cannabinoids at relieving anxiety syndromes. Likewise the obvious evidence that it was their efficacy as an inhalable anxiolytic that jump-started pot's first spurt of popularity with Baby Boomers, while (ironically) frightening Richard Nixon into declaring “war on drugs.”

As the fortieth anniversary of Nixon's unlikely ascent to the Presidency approaches, increasing attention will be directed at key events responsible for that catastrophe. Between the daily follies of our contemporary world and the ease with which they can be logically connected to our failing drug war, I should have a lot to write about over the next several months.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 24, 2008 04:54 AM